With over 250 identified COVID-19 Palestinian patients in the West Bank and potentially dozens in the Gaza Strip, some 20 human rights organizations said today that Israel is obliged to take measures vis-a-vis the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to save lives in face of potential Covid19 coronavirus outbreak.
The organizations expressed “grave concern in the face of a potential human catastrophe” in case “the Palestinian healthcare system, with a dire lack of equipment, medicines, and training, will be unable to deal with this outbreak.”
They said in their joint statement, “We therefore urge the Israeli authorities to live up to their legal and moral obligations and assist the Palestinian health systems—in Gaza and the West Bank—both with combating the pandemic and caring for those patients who are in critical need of continuous health care that is unavailable in the Gaza Strip.”
They called on Israel to remove the 13-year-long blockade on the Gaza Strip that has stifled life there.
“At such a critical moment, we call on Israel to lift the 13-year closure on Gaza so that inter alia Gaza can equip itself with the necessary medical supplies—both to combat COVID-19 and to care for patients who would usually seek to leave the Strip as their treatment is unavailable locally, notably cancer patients. Where medication and equipment are unavailable because of budgetary shortages of the Palestinian health system, Israel should help ensure the supply of the missing materials, to the greatest extent possible. Moreover, Israel should remove barriers to movement of goods and any other impediments on trade and economic activity that harm public health, as well as help to actively maintain a steady supply of electricity and fuel so that hospitals and the general population can maintain reasonable levels of hygiene.”
They added: “Article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention specifically provides that an occupier has the duty of ensuring and maintaining the ‘adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics’. We already know that that there is an alarming lack of equipment, including personal protective equipment, consistent with local shortages and compounded by the long-term restrictions imposed by the blockade, as well as insufficient numbers of trained healthcare workers in both Gaza and the West Bank. In addition to its own citizens and residents, Israel must also fulfill its duty to all protected persons living under its effective control, including in Gaza, and take active steps to ensure that they have adequate access to medical care.”
They urged relevant international organizations to call on Israel to fulfill its duties and responsibilities to assist the Palestinian health system and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The organizations included: Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel; Al Mezan Center for Human Rights; B’Tselem; Euro-Med Rights; Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement; Human Rights Watch; Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights; MEDACT; Medecins du Monde France; Medical Aid for Palestinians; Medical Human Rights Network IFHHRO; Medico International; Medico International Switzerland; Oxfam; Physicians for Human Rights; Physicians for Human Rights Israel; Save the Children; The Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER); and the World Organization against Torture (OMCT).