The Palestinian Authority has begun cracking down on Palestinians for allegedly spreading fake news about the coronavirus in the West Bank.
In Hebron, the PA General Intelligence Service arrested two Palestinians suspected of being behind an audio message about the discovery of coronavirus cases in the city.
In Bethlehem, the PA Preventive Security Service arrested a Palestinian also on suspicion of spreading fake news about the virus.
A third Palestinian was arrested in Nablus by PA security forces after he reportedly posted a fake comment on his Facebook page claiming that 12 new coronavirus cases have been detected in the city. The fake claim caused panic in Nablus and its surrounding villages.
A Palestinian official in Ramallah threatened that the security forces would employ an “iron-fist” policy against anyone who spreads fake news or rumors about the virus.
Tarek al-Haj, commander of the PA Police in Bethlehem, told the Palestinian news agency Wafa that “rumors are a lethal weapon that affects the morale of the people.” He said the PA security forces have received instructions to arrest anyone who spreads rumors about the virus and causes a state of panic among Palestinians.
Meanwhile, new cases of coronavirus have been detected in the West Bank, PA government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem said on Tuesday.
Milhem said that the total number of people infected with the virus stands at 25-26 in Bethlehem and one in the city of Tulkarm in the northern West Bank.
The spokesman revealed that one of the Bethlehem patients was now being treated in the intensive care unit of a local hospital.
He said the PA government was being transparent in its dealings with the virus, adding that all Palestinian cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, have been undergoing regular tests for the virus after participating in meetings.
The number of Palestinians who are currently in isolation has reached 2,900, both in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They include 605 Palestinians who recently returned to the Strip after visiting Saudi Arabia.
In the context of the 30-day state of emergency announced last week by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, the authority has ordered the closure of all coffee shops and wedding halls in most Palestinian communities.