A group of Sri Lankan Christians Thursday addressed a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him to treat the Palestinian people with dignity and justice amid the novel coronavirus crisis.
The group also urged Netanyahu not to undermine the global health effort to counter COVID-19, and instead, respond urgently to the basic humanitarian needs of Palestinians in the occupied territories (West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip).
In their letter, posted on Sri Lankan Brief news website, the group expressed deep concern “by the distressing spread of COVID-19 across Gaza and the West Bank, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) reporting 474 confirmed cases in Palestine, at the time of writing” and “appeal]ed[ to the Government of Israel to treat the Palestinian people with dignity and justice at this critical juncture in history.”
While the group welcomed “initial cooperation” between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority in facilitating the delivery of medical supplies, they called upon them to come to an agreement to eradicate the COVID-19 virus completely.
The group of highlighted the role of the Israeli occupation practices in hampering Palestinian efforts to fight the break of the deadly virus.
“However, the long-standing restrictions imposed by the government of Israel on occupied Palestine, weakens the ability of the Palestinian systems to respond effectively to this deadly virus. Further, as a result of over 50-years of military occupation, the health care infrastructure in the West Bank and especially in Gaza, have been struggling well before the breakout of this global pandemic. Currently, Gaza has only 78 ICU beds and 63 ventilators 1 for a population of over two million.”
The group called on the Israeli government to “secure the availability and access to food, water and medicines for all; enable equitable distribution of testing resources between Jewish and Palestinian areas in Jerusalem; and guarantee the unrestricted movement of medical supplies and healthcare personnel, to scale-up COVID testing and treatment in Palestine, particularly in anticipation of the return of Palestinian workers, to observe Ramadan with their families.”
They also called on it to “assure all Israeli checkpoints adhere to WHO health and hygiene recommendations, including regular sanitizing of surfaces and public areas, and physical distancing; ensure adequate preventative measures (protective and hygienic facilities) are offered to Palestinian prisoners within the overcrowded Israeli military prison system; release all child detainees, following appropriate testing, to avoid the pervasive spread of the virus within Israeli prisons and detention centres; and halt, with immediate effect, the destruction and seizure of property in the West Bank, in order to prevent escalating the humanitarian crisis.”