West Bank coronavirus cases soar

Heavily armed soldier wearing protective mask

Israeli occupation forces stand guard in Halhul, a village near the occupied West Bank city of Hebron on 30 June.

Mosab Shawer APA images

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases has topped 8,000 in the occupied West Bank.

That’s more than 11 times the number recorded this time last month.

There have been 46 fatalities in the West Bank, including a newborn baby.

Around 5,000 cases were recorded in the populous occupied West Bank city of Hebron, the epicenter of the recent outbreak.

The United Nations monitoring group OCHA attributed the recent surge to social gatherings, particularly weddings.

The Palestinian Authority imposed limited, internal lockdowns in municipalities since the beginning of the month, including the closure of all nonessential shops. Grocery stores, bakeries, pharmacies, banks and factories have been allowed to remain open. Restaurants are still permitted to deliver food.

A nighttime curfew has also been imposed and movement prohibited between West Bank regions until 27 July.

Those who test positive in the West Bank can isolate at home and are not required to enter official quarantine or be hospitalized if their symptoms are mild.

This is unlike neighboring Jordan, where all those who test positive are required by the government to be hospitalized.


As the occupying power, Israel has the legal obligation under international law to guarantee basic services and health infrastructure for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Authority announced it was suspending coordination with Israeli authorities in May due to Israel’s plans to annex large swaths of the occupied West Bank.

This has seriously affected the ability of Palestinians to procure medical equipment.

In addition to the pandemic, Palestinians face continued attacks on their persons, rights and property by Israel.

Since the beginning of the month, Israel demolished or confiscated 26 Palestinian structures, displacing 13 people and affecting dozens more.

Settler violence continues to rise, “with physical attacks on Palestinian farmers and vandalism against Palestinian vehicles and olive trees,” OCHA said.

No new cases in Gaza

No new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in the Gaza Strip in over a month.

There have been a total of 72 confirmed cases in Gaza, including one death. Only eight cases remain active.

This is largely due to the closure of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt by the Egyptian authorities since 15 May. It is the sole entry and exit point for the vast majority of Gaza residents to the outside world.

Only 14 people were able to enter into Gaza through Rafah in June.

The Erez checkpoint on the boundary with Israel – the only other exit for Gaza residents – has significantly reduced operations since March in an attempt to halt the spread of COVID-19.

An average of just 70 to 80 people exit Gaza through Erez every week, according to OCHA.

The usual channel by which Palestinians in Gaza could apply for permits to enter Israel were disrupted along with communications between Israel and the PA.

That includes Palestinians in need of critical medical treatment unavailable in the blockaded coastal enclave.

Human rights groups have reaffirmed however that Israel is responsible for ensuring that Palestinians in Gaza can travel for healthcare regardless of whether there is coordination with the PA.

Israeli authorities then announced that Palestinians in need of urgent medical treatment can apply through COGAT, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation.

Still, Palestinians who need to exit Gaza “for all other medical, humanitarian and additional needs still have no way of submitting applications for consideration,” Israeli human rights group Gisha said.

Moreover, the portal set up for applications by the Israeli authorities appears to be only in Hebrew, a language few people in Gaza speak.

There was a 98.5 percent drop in the number of residents leaving through Erez in June compared to the monthly average of 2019, according to Gisha.

A limited number of patients were recently able to exit the Erez checkpoint into Israel on an ad hoc basis in coordination with human rights groups.

The Gaza authorities have decided that all those entering the Strip will be placed in mandatory three-week quarantine for the remainder of the year.

Lockdown restrictions in Gaza have significantly eased, however.

“Most public places, including wedding halls, coffee shops, restaurants, markets and playgrounds have gradually re-opened in recent weeks,” OCHA said.

Infected prisoner

Meanwhile, a Palestinian prisoner diagnosed with cancer has contracted the virus.

Kamal Abu Waar, 46, was transferred from Gilboa prison in northern present-day Israel to several hospitals in the past week, the Palestinian Authority’s Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs stated.

He is now being held at the Yitzhak Shamir Medical Center in Tel Aviv.

Israeli prison authorities isolated section two of Gilboa prison, where Abu Waar had been held, and the prison director and 23 guards are in isolation.

Abu Waar is from the northern occupied West Bank city of Qabatiya. He is serving multiple life sentences and 50 additional years.


Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.