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Israeli Supreme Court says no social distancing necessary in prisons

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The Latest:

  • 12,412 Palestinians testing positive for COVID-19; 10,018 in the West Bank; 75 in Gaza
  • 73 Palestinians have died of COVID-19 related causes
  • 59,475 Israelis testing positive for COVID-19; 448 deaths

Israelis and Palestinians are now three weeks into a virulent second coronavirus wave and the higher rates of infection are leading to worries over governance, a plummeting economy, and nightly protests outside of the Israeli prime minister’s residence.

While the occupied Palestinian territory experienced a record number of new COVID-19 cases in a single day at 596 on Thursday, the picture is not entirely grim. More than 3,000 have recovered. The World Health Organization noted in this week’s situation report, most of the new cases were found in tests done after July 1. At least 9,110 of the 12,412 cases, and 62 fatalities of the 73 fatalities occurred this month.

There are currently 16 critical patients, of whom 5 are connected to ventilators, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Over 23,261 Palestinians are in still in quarantine at home or government-run isolation centers.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health has shut down all of its offices until Sunday for sterilization after a worker with a cleaning company contracted to sanitize facilities tested positive for COVID-19 and had been inside of headquarters in Nablus.

In the midst of all of this, we’re seeing a disturbing trend emerge — Israeli authorities are demolishing COVID-19 testing sites in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The latest incidents took place this week at a drive through testing site in Jenin, and a testing clinic under construction in Hebron.

Our correspondent Yumna Patel spoke to the landowner, Raed Maswadeh, who donated the plot and the put up the funds to build the Hebron location.

Patel reports:

“Just 24 hours before the demolition, Maswadeh and his lawyer were allegedly told by the Israeli Civil Administration office in Beit El that the permits were approved, and the clinic would not be destroyed.

‘We thought everything was fine, and we were really relieved,’ Maswadeh told Mondoweiss. ‘So when we woke up in the morning to find the building destroyed, we were shocked,’ he said.”

COVID-19 in Prison

Today, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled against a petition demanding that the Israeli Prison Service implement social distancing in the Gilboa prison. There are currently 30 guards and seven prisoners infected with COVID-19 in the prison, and 489 guards and 58 prisoners in quarantine.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights filed the petition on behalf of the families of two Palestinian prisoners who are being held in the prison. Adalah slammed the decision as essentially ruling: “Palestinian prisoners have no right to social distancing protection against COVID-19.”

Hebron Still Hot

Hebron continues to be the fulcrum of the West Bank’s surge in new COVID-19 cases, and is home to at least 6,789 of the West Bank’s 10,018 total confirmed cases. The number of deaths continues to increase, with two more fatalities in the Hebron area yesterday. A 82-year-old man from the West Bank town of Idna outside of Hebron and a 58-year-old man from Dura near Hebron, died Thursday morning.

One recent fatality left an emotional impression this week after photos of Jihad al-Suwaiti, 30, circulated on social media showing the man climbing an exterior wall of a hospital in order to be near his dying mother, Rasmi al-Suwaiti, 73.

British tabloid the Mirror reported a hospital official said: “He climbed the pipeline on the building to get up to a spot to see his mother, who was on the second floor. He spent most of his days there, observing his mother’s condition from outside the window.”

Rasmi al-Suwaiti had leukemia and was hospitalized for five days before passing away July 16.

“He only came down after he was convinced that his mother had fallen asleep,” the official said.

Netanyahu Under Fire for ‘Mismanagement’

Yesterday, Israel marked more than 1,500 new cases of COVID-19, a major jump up from less than a dozen per day about a month ago. The country resumed a partial lockdown in early July, and as of Thursday there is a new coronavirus czar who will lead policy recommendations. At the same time frustration is mounting towards Israeli’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is seen as failing to control the contagion. A poll by Channel 13 said 76% of the country gave Netanyahu a poor score for his handling of the crisis.

The backdrop to this is that Israel’s unemployment levels have reached 20%. This week two major strikes ended, one only lasting a day. Nurses ended their strike 24 hours after declaring a work stoppage over wages and shift lengths, and social workers also ended a weeks long strike after the government agreed to higher pay.

On Thursday evening, thousands of protesters returned once again to demonstrate outside of Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence. Haaretz reported 55 were arrested during confrontations with police. The protest occurred hours after Netanyahu went on television yesterday morning urging protesters to stay indoors—for their own safety from the virus.

Protests against Netanyahu also took place on Tuesday in the German Colony, a restaurant row in Haifa, by the city’s Palestinian business owners. They called for Netanyahu to “resign” and blamed him for their inability to safely reopen because of the coronavirus’ continued spread.

As COVID-19 rates also continue to rise here in the U.S. with many states hitting record numbers, we want to wish you a safe weekend. We’ll see you next week.