Hamas has called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to lift the sanctions he imposed on the Gaza Strip to enable the Palestinians living there to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The appeal came in the aftermath of the discovery of the first two cases of coronavirus in the Gaza Strip on Sunday.
The Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health said two Palestinians who returned to the Gaza Strip from Pakistan tested positive for the virus and were placed in quarantine.
In the past few days, Hamas officials warned that the Gaza Strip would face a “disaster” if more Palestinians are found to have contracted the virus.
Several Palestinians who came in contact with the two patients who returned from Pakistan have been placed in quarantine. They include Tawfik Abu Na’im, commander of Hamas’s Internal Security Force.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem, who called on Abbas to lift the sanctions he imposed on the Gaza Strip, said on Monday that “confronting the challenge of the spread of the coronavirus requires Palestinian unity at the national level.”
Qassem urged the PA leadership to immediately lift the punitive measures against the people of the Gaza Strip “to strengthen our ability to face the growing challenge” of the pandemic.
The PA, he added, “should end the policy of punishing the Gaza Strip, particularly during these times when our people need to strengthen our internal front.”
In 2017, Abbas imposed financial sanctions on the Gaza Strip in the context of his attempts to undermine Hamas. The punitive measures included cutting the salaries of thousands of employees and forcing many others into early retirement, as well as withholding funding for electricity, medical services and social welfare cases in the Gaza Strip.
PA officials have insisted that the sanctions would not be removed unless Hamas allows the Ramallah-based Palestinian government to assume full responsibilities over the Gaza Strip – a demand that has been repeatedly turned down by the Hamas leadership.
Husam Khader, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank, called on the PA to provide immediate financial aid to the Gaza Strip. He said that the PA government headed by Mohammed Shtayyeh should deal with the Gaza Strip in the same way it’s dealing with the West Bank regarding the fight against the coronavirus. Khader also urged the PA to lift the sanctions it imposed on the Gaza Strip and said that thousands of families there were facing financial difficulties because of Abbas’s punitive measures.
The Gaza-based Ministry of Health on Monday announced additional precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The new measures include suspending work in all hospital outpatient clinics, halting all non-emergency surgeries and limiting visits to critically ill patients in all hospitals.