The arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during March did not spare Palestinians from Israel’s violations of their rights.
There were 134 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip as of 1 April.
The sole fatality reported by Palestinian authorities in those territories was a woman in the West Bank village of Biddu, who was infected by her son who works in Israel.
A large number of the Palestinians who tested positive for the coronavirus “were infected during work in Israel or Israeli settlements in the West Bank,” according to Euro-Med Monitor.
Twelve coronavirus patients were in quarantine in Gaza as of 31 March and there has been no reports of community spread among the general population so far.
“The capacity of the Palestinian health system to cope with an expected increase in patients remains severely impaired by longstanding challenges and critical shortages, particularly in the Gaza Strip,” the UN humanitarian coordination agency OCHA said.
Human rights groups also warned of the potential spread of COVID-19 among the more than 4,500 Palestinians held in overcrowded Israeli prisons and detention centers.
The Palestinian human rights group Addameer stated on 1 April that a former Palestinian prisoner who was arrested by Israel on 18 March, held at Ofer prison in the West Bank, and released on 31 March tested positive for the coronavirus.
Israel has reported more than 5,100 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 21 deaths. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has consolidated his control as the country reels from the outbreak.
There have been more than 823,600 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in 205 countries, areas or territories worldwide and some 40,600 deaths.
According to the UN humanitarian coordination agency OCHA, the relatively low number of confirmed cases in the Palestinian territories “may reflect the limited testing capacity.”
Palestinians killed in West Bank
Israeli forces killed two Palestinians in the West Bank during the month amid the pandemic.
Muhammad Abdelrahim Hamayel, 15, died after he was shot in the head with live ammunition fired by Israeli soldiers in Beita village near the city of Nablus on 11 March.
The teenager was injured in the early morning hours as villagers confronted Israeli forces accompanying a group of Israeli settlers touring a nearby archaeological site.
He is the second Palestinian child killed by Israeli forces so far this year.
The second Palestinian killed during the month, Sufian Khawaja, was shot in the head in the West Bank village of Nilin on 22 March. The Israeli army claimed that Khawaja was hurling stones at vehicles when he was shot dead.
Israel is withholding Khawaja’s body.
Israeli forces continued to raid Palestinian communities in the West Bank as they struggled to hold back the threat from the coronavirus pandemic.
Soldiers also demolished and seized structures meant for a field clinic in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley.
Human rights groups said that Israel’s heightened restrictions amid the coronavirus are hindering their ability to monitor and document violations of Palestinians’ rights.