Israeli authorities and the Palestinian Authority on Thursday denied rumors that Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.
Four inmates at Megiddo Prison were isolated on suspicion of having been in contact with an ill prisoner last week, the Prisons Service said. They did not show any symptoms of the disease but nevertheless were placed in isolation as a precautionary measure in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines, it said.
The Palestinian Prisoners’ Commission also denied the rumors. It said no cases of coronavirus have been confirmed among the prisoners held by Israel.
Commission head Kadri Abu Bakr said his group was told by the Health Ministry the rumors were baseless. He called on Israeli authorities to increase precautionary measures in the prisons to protect the inmates.
Abu Bakr also urged the Israeli authorities to release ill prisoners, women and minors.
The rumors about the coronavirus cases in Megiddo Prison appeared on several Palestinian social-media platforms. They apparently were aimed at pressuring Israel to release Palestinian prisoners in light of the outbreak of the virus.
Abu Obedia, a spokesman for Izzadin al-Qassam, the so-called “military” wing of Hamas, said Israel was responsible for the safety and health of the Palestinian prisoners.
“The life and safety of the prisoners is a red line,” he said on Twitter.
Obedia called on Israel to release all the prisoners under the pretext it was unable to protect them from diseases.
In response to the rumors, several Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip called on the international community, human-rights organizations and the World Health Organization to “move quickly to save the lives of the Palestinian prisoners. The factions held Israel fully responsible for the lives of the prisoners and demanded their immediate release.”
“Our heroic prisoners are at the top of the Palestinian resistance’s priorities, and we will continue to use all options to release them,” the factions said in a statement. “We will not abandon our duty to defend their rights.”
Last week, PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh called for the immediate release of Palestinian prisoners, especially the sick and those suffering from permanent diseases.
He said he would send a message to the International Committee of the Red Cross to ask it to secure the prisoners’ release and ensure their safety.
Meanwhile, the PA government announced on Thursday three new cases of coronavirus had been detected in the West Bank. It said two female students from Jerusalem and Ramallah, who returned from France, tested positive for the virus, while another case was discovered in Nablus.
The total number of Palestinians infected with the disease stood at 47 by Thursday morning, PA government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem said.