Middle East Monitor / March 17, 2020
Israeli authorities have further tightened restrictions on Palestinians, with the latest measures targeting day labourers coming from the occupied West Bank, reported the Times of Israel.
The restrictions come as Israel seeks to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Mass movement restrictions are being used exclusively against Palestinians, however.
In a pre-dawn announcement today, Defence Minister Naftali Bennett ordered that only Palestinian workers in “essential” sectors such as “healthcare, agriculture and construction” would be allowed entry.
In addition, the report added, “Palestinians would no longer be allowed to travel back and forth from the West Bank to work sites, but would need to sleep in Israel, with the employer providing lodging.” The workers “were told to expect to remain in Israel for one-to-two months.”
As summarised by the Times of Israel, “Israel has largely shut off travel from outside the country, and ordered anyone who does enter to quarantine for 14 days.”
Palestinian health officials yesterday reported 39 cases of COVID-19 among West Bank Palestinians – almost all in Bethlehem – and none in the Gaza Strip.
“Israel had already placed some restrictions on Palestinians entering Israel, banning anyone over 50 and shutting the Erez crossing with Gaza,” the news site reported.
The coronavirus crisis threatens to push the Palestinian economy into unchartered waters, with unemployment and personal debt already high.
Palestinian Authority (PA) Finance Minister Shukri Bishara met his Israeli counterpart Moshe Kahlon yesterday to demand that Israel release hundreds of millions of shekels in tax funds unilaterally withheld from the PA as collective punishment for payments made to prisoners and their families.
Bishara urged Israeli authorities to hand over the funds owed to the PA, moneys which would “contribute to helping the Palestinian treasury adopt the best health-related measures to face off” the coronavirus.
It was announced yesterday that Kuwait had donated $5.5 million to the Palestinians to confront the virus, while last week, Qatar donated medical equipment valued at $10 million to the PA.