US Senator Bernie Sanders on Sunday highlighted the catastrophic threat of the COVID-19 pandemic to the Gaza Strip.
“Palestinians in Gaza already faced hardship under a blockade. Now they’re dealing with the coronavirus,” the Democratic presidential contender tweeted.
His tweet included a link to a statement from the Israeli human rights group Gisha, which reiterates Israel’s responsibility for the health of the two million people blockaded in the Gaza Strip.
Sanders is one of eight senators who signed a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week urging the Trump administration to restore US humanitarian aid to Palestinians.
It was initiated by senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.
The letter notes that the 2020 US budget includes $75 million for humanitarian assistance to Palestinians.
But despite the appropriation, the Trump administration “has not reconsidered its policy of ceasing all bilateral assistance to the Palestinians,” as well as its decision to cut all US funding to UNRWA, the UN agency that provides basic health and education services to millions of Palestinian refugees, Warren’s office noted.
“Given the spread of the coronavirus in the West Bank and Gaza, the extreme vulnerability of the health system in Gaza, and the continued withholding of US aid to the Palestinian people, we are concerned that the administration is failing to take every reasonable step to help combat this public health emergency in the Palestinian territories,” the senators state.
The lawmakers request that Pompeo explain by 3 April what the administration is doing “to help provide the Palestinian people with access to adequate medicine, medical equipment, personnel and other resources to combat the threat of a major coronavirus health crisis.”
Many Palestinian and international organizations and health experts have warned of looming catastrophe if the pandemic reaches the population in Gaza, where the health system, water and sanitation and the economy have been severely degraded by three major Israeli military assaults and a tight siege in recent years.
As of Monday, 115 coronavirus cases had been confirmed in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Of those cases nine are in Gaza among persons in quarantine.
As of Sunday, the health ministry in the territory confirmed there had been no new cases detected and there is no evidence of community spread.