Gaza records first coronavirus death

Palestinian worshippers perform Eid al-Fitr prayers amid the coronavirus pandemic in Gaza City on 24 May.

Mahmoud Ajjour APA images

Gaza recorded its first death as a result of the coronavirus, the health ministry in the territory announced on Saturday.

Fadila Muhammad Abu Raida, 77, died while in isolation at a field hospital on the Rafah crossing at Gaza’s southern border with Egypt.

The number of recorded cases in Gaza spiked in the past week as some 1,500 travelers stranded in Egypt were able to return to the occupied Palestinian territory, where they have been staying in quarantine facilities.

Egypt registered 720 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, the highest daily toll yet in the most populous Arab country. More than 530 cases were recorded on Monday.

Gaza cases

Gaza’s health ministry said on Tuesday that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the territory rose by three to a total of 58 since the beginning of the pandemic. Eighteen of the people affected have recovered while 39 remain under treatment in the Rafah field hospital.

The number of new cases raises fears of community transmission in the densely populated territory, whose two million residents have been impoverished as a result of Israel’s tightened blockade imposed in 2007.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says that Gaza’s already precarious healthcare system would only be able to handle 100 to 150 serious cases of the coronavirus simultaneously.

Human rights groups have called on Israel to publish an action plan to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Gaza.

It has not yet done so, even though as the occupying power, it is directly responsible for the health of Palestinians living under its military rule.

The Hamas-led administration in Gaza announced that the territory’s two pedestrian crossings would remain closed until 30 June to prevent a community outbreak.

“As of yet, it is unknown whether there will be any exceptions to Hamas’ closures at Erez and Rafah crossings,” Gisha, a human rights group focused on freedom of movement, stated on Monday.

The fate of Gaza’s crossings is thrown into further doubt after an announcement by Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, that the PA is no longer bound to past agreements with Israel and the US.

That announcement comes as the newly formed Israeli government moves forward with plans to annex large swathes of the West Bank.

“Sources in Gaza told Gisha that PA officials there have been instructed to halt all coordination for permits for pedestrian travel at Erez,” as well as the movement of goods at Gaza’s only commercial crossing, the rights group stated.

Restrictions eased

Palestinian authorities have reported more than 600 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Four coronavirus deaths have been reported in the West Bank.

Palestinians have reported no new cases in the West Bank since 18 May.

The Church of the Nativity, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, reopened on Tuesday. It had been closed since 5 March after the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in the area among those who had come into contact with a group of infected pilgrims.

Mohammad Stayyeh, the Palestinian Authority prime minister, announced the easing of coronavirus restrictions on Monday, allowing businesses to reopen and houses of worship to open their doors to congregants.

Israeli occupation forces were reported to have prevented Muslim worshippers from accessing the Ibrahimi mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron on Tuesday.

The number of new coronavirus cases reported by Israel continues to decline. There have been nearly 17,000 confirmed cases in the country, and 281 deaths, since the beginning of the pandemic.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.