Palestinian groups accuse Israel of neglecting Palestinian prisoners amid fears of coronavirus spreading among detainees

Palestinian groups accuse Israel of neglecting Palestinian prisoners amid fears of coronavirus spreading among detainees
Hamas is demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons, accusing the state of neglecting to protect them from the coronavirus outbreak.
3 min read
19 March, 2020
Israel has been accused of using the coronavirus outbreak to build illegal settlements [Getty]
Hamas has accused Israel of neglecting to protect its Palestinian prisoners from coronavirus.

"The life and safety of the prisoners is a red line," wrote Abu Obedia, a spokesman for Hamas' Izaddin Al-Qassam arm.

Writing on Twitter, he urged Israel to release all Palestinian prisoners, on the basis that it could not protect them from diseases, including the highly infectious COVID-19.

The group also urged Israeli authorities to release ill prisoners, women and children.

The Israeli authorities and the Palestinian Authority denied that Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons have been diagnosed with coronavirus.

The Israel Prison Service said four inmates held in Megiddo Prison have been isolated after being suspected of having been in contact with an ill prisoner last week, but were quick to add the inmates did not show any symptoms of the disease.

The four prisoners were placed in isolation as a precautionary measure. Not everyone who has coronavirus shows symptoms.

Other Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip called on human rights organisations and the World Health Organisation to "move quickly to save the lives of the Palestinian prisoners".

"Our heroic prisoners are at the top of the Palestinian resistance's priorities, and we will continue to use all options to release them," they said in a statement.

"We will not abandon our duty to defend their rights."

Read More: Trapped between Israel's occupation and coronavirus: How are Palestinians coping with the pandemic?

Israel closed off Palestinian-administered areas of the occupied West Bank on Wednesday to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, an official said.

"From today, a closure has taken place in the West Bank," said Yotam Shefer, who heads the international department of COGAT, the Israeli military body responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories.

He told journalists the decision had been taken in conjunction with the Ramallah-based Palestinian administration, who on Sunday also announced the closure of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the border crossing with the Gaza Strip has been closed in recent days and will remain so, Shefer added.

Illegal settlement expansion

A senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) launched a scathing attack on the Israeli authorities' response to the coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday, accusing it of exploiting the lockdown in the West Bank to accelerate the annexation of Palestinian land while protecting Israeli settlers' attacks against Palestinian civilians.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO's Executive Committee, cited Wednesday's raid on a sit-in held by Palestinian residents of Beita to defend the nearby Mount Al-Arma from being seized by settlers.

The incident saw Israeli forces firing live rounds at protesters, killing 15-year-old Mohammed Hamayel.

"As the international community seeks to cooperate in combating the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Israel is exploiting the situation to expedite de facto annexation of Palestinian land while providing protection and cover to armed Israeli settlers in their terror attacks against defenceless Palestinian communities across the occupied West Bank," said Ashrawi, in a press statement published by WAFA news agency.

Ashrawi added that Israeli settlers have "sharply increased their terrorist attacks" against Palestinian residents of the West Bank, under protection of Israeli forces.

"Most recently, Israeli settlers have repeatedly raided Mount Al-Orma near Nablus in an attempt to take over the area with the active participation of the Israeli army."

"The Palestinians of Beita-Nablus have faced repeated assaults with courage and determination despite the great cost and suffering they have endured," she said.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to stay connected