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The West Bank shuts down again to curb COVID-19’s second wave

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Palestinians walk in the streets during of a mandatory quarantine that was announced by the Palestinian Authority as part of measures against the resurgence of COVID-19 in the West Bank city of Nablus on June 21, 2020. (Photo: Shadi Jarar’ah/APA Images)

The Latest:

  • 3,485 Palestinians have tested positive for COVID-19; 3,076 in the West Bank; 72 in the Gaza Strip; and 337 in East Jerusalem 
  • At least 2,228 of the cases are in Hebron
  • 13 Palestinians have died of COVID-19 related causes
  • 27,611 people in Israel have tested positive for COVID-19
  • 326 people in Israel have died from COVID-19 related causes

Over the last week cases of COVID-19 have surged in Israel and the West Bank, prompting both governments to resume lock down measures in efforts to curb the second wave. In the two week period from June 15 to July 2 the total number of coronavirus cases doubled in the West Bank with at least 1,747 testing positive and five new fatalities. 

Around one third of all of the confirmed cases in the West Bank are from Palestinians living in Hebron, the epicenter of the virus in this second wave. Lock down measures were put in place there last week, and also Nablus. Beginning today closures will expand across the entire West Bank. 

At the same time there are still 19,255 Palestinians in quarantine at home for suspected exposure, including 282 in Gaza who are the last of returning Palestinians who were abroad when the pandemic began and have since returned.  

In Israel, Thursday saw one of the largest single day jumps in new cases since March with 790 testing positive. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to slow down policies to open the economy this week. While restaurants, synagogues, mosques, and churches all remain open outside of individual cities that are under curfew, they are now limited to 50 patrons at businesses and 20 people at houses of worship. Last week, gatherings of 250 were allowed in Israel, including weddings. 

Twin Crises

Palestinian laborers wearing masks queue to enter Israel through the Mitar checkpoint outside of the West Bank city of Hebron while a lockdown is in place inside of the city on June 28, 2020. (Photo: Mosab Shawer/APA Images)
Palestinian laborers wearing masks queue to enter Israel through the Mitar checkpoint outside of the West Bank city of Hebron while a lockdown is in place inside of the city on June 28, 2020. (Photo: Mosab Shawer/APA Images)

Palestinian laborers wearing masks queue to enter Israel through the Mitar checkpoint outside of the West Bank city of Hebron while a lockdown is in place inside of the city on June 28, 2020. (Photo: Mosab Shawer/APA Images)

At the same time Palestinians are seeing soaring COVID-19 numbers and are returning to sheltering in place, the last week has been dramatic for other reasons as well. Israel had set a deadline to annex part of the West Bank on Wednesday, and while that came and passed, anxieties are still high. 

Mondoweiss’s Yumna Patel who is now back under lock down wrote about the dual pressures sweeping the West Bank in the Tuesday edition of this newsletter. 

Earlier this week Patel reported from the Jordan Valley where she interviewed Palestinians who live in the territory Israel was expected to annex. Many told her that while a law from Israel’s Knesset or executive decree from Netanyahu formalizing annexation would surely be new, the major kinds of regulations that come with annexation are already felt on the ground and have been for some time. 

Zayd Sawafta, a farmer and mayor of the bucolic village of Bardala described:

“From not allowing us to build roads to our villages, giving us no access to water, restricting our farmlands, destroying our homes, arresting us, confiscating our animals, taking our tractors — all of these things are part of their so-called ‘annexation plan.’” 

Locked In With No Exit Permit

 The grandmother of a nine-month-old Palestinian, Omar Yaghi, who died from complex heart problems after he was unable to continue treatment at Sheba Medical Center in Israel. Yaghi died of heart failure on June 17. (Photo: Ashraf Amra)
The grandmother of a nine-month-old Palestinian, Omar Yaghi, who died from complex heart problems after he was unable to continue treatment at Sheba Medical Center in Israel. Yaghi died of heart failure on June 17. (Photo: Ashraf Amra)

The grandmother of a nine-month-old Palestinian, Omar Yaghi, who died from complex heart problems after he was unable to continue treatment at Sheba Medical Center in Israel. Yaghi died of heart failure on June 17. (Photo: Ashraf Amra)

Last Friday we told you in this newsletter about the deaths of 73 Palestinians in Gaza who were seriously ill since March. These were not fatalities from COVID-19, but they were related to the pandemic. The deaths occurred because many Palestinians have not been able to access their normal treatment at local hospitals and clinics because they have been converted into COVID-only centers. The healthcare system is currently so strapped many other medical treatments are not available. 

This week we report another health crisis bubbling alongside the pandemic. Two infants died in the Gaza Strip after they were unable to secure exit permits for surgeries in Israel. This story starts back in late March when Israel announced it would annex the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority said it would respond by ending cooperation with Israel. Previously that referred mostly to security coordination between Israeli and Palestinian forces, however, without any notice the PA also stopped sending exit permits over to Israel’s civil administrations for Gaza’s sickest patients. This was an unexpected interpretation of ceasing coordination with Israel. We first heard about this issue from Physicians for Human Rights – Israel who were receiving phone calls from Palestinians desperately seeking someone to drive their paperwork to the Israel army’s West Bank permit office. 

This week Tareq Hajjaj spoke with one family whose child, Omar Yaghi, died after he was not able to secure an exit permit for a surgery scheduled in Israel. Omar’s grandfather, Jehad Yaghi told Hajjaj:

“The lives of the patients are sacred and should not be manipulated for political situations. Omar would have been in his family’s arms by now if he had undergone surgery when it was scheduled. The doctors confirmed as much, however, he passed. An angel who had a charming smile, he passed away only because he was sick in Gaza.”


That’s it for now. Stay safe and we’ll see you in a week.