NGO: Israel must let communications equipment into Gaza amid virus crisis

The absence of such products has harmed the Gaza business sector in the midst of the global economic crisis

BRING OUR citizens back from Gaza (photo credit: REUTERS)
BRING OUR citizens back from Gaza
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel must not sanction Hamas by halting the entry of communications equipment into Gaza, particularly in light of its importance during the coronavirus crisis, said a left-wing NGO.
NGO Gisha – the Legal Center for the Freedom of Movement acknowledged the ban was put in place on February 10 in response to the theft, allegedly by Hamas, of computer equipment from the Palestine Telecommunications Company (PALTAL), which operates in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Gisha’s attorney Muna Haddad, however, stated that “the blanket ban is unreasonable and disproportionate. Under the current circumstances, the measure constitutes unlawful collective punishment and a breach of Israel’s obligation to respect and safeguard normal living conditions for Gaza’s civilian population.”
Haddad wrote a letter to Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Kamil Abu Rukun.
COGAT said in response that it had decided to sanction Hamas until the equipment was returned.
“We will not allow Hamas to [cynically use] the civil steps made in order to stabilize the economic situation in the Strip. As long as the equipment stolen by terrorists in the Strip isn't given back – the entry of communication equipment will be prohibited for all communication companies operating in the Strip,” Abu Rukun said.
“I once again warn the terrorist organizations: Do not take an advantage of the humanitarian mediation and the steps the State of Israel takes for the good of the residents of the Gaza Strip for terrorist needs.”
According to Gisha, the ban has included desktop and laptop computers and accessories, printers, routers, network cables, landline phones and cellular phones as well as their parts and accessories.
The absence of such products has harmed the Gaza business sector in the midst of the global economic crisis, Gisha said. It also makes it difficult for Gaza’s citizens to continue their normal life while abiding by the necessary quarantine measures needed to combat the spread of the coronavirus, it added.
“Companies supplying communication equipment have had to lay off employees, and there are concerns that they will be shut down completely,” the letter said.
The harm is amplified “during this period of the coronavirus pandemic, given that schools, universities and many workplaces have switched to remote working and learning, in compliance with guidelines issued across the globe,” Gisha said.
Families are also relying more heavily on communication devices.
But Gisha added that “in light of the shortage in equipment and the resultant price hikes, many residents cannot afford to purchase, replace or repair communication equipment, leaving them without Internet access, and others are unable to obtain the necessary electronic devices.”