PA warns Palestinians against smuggling workers back from Israel

Several Palestinians who were caught trying to smuggle workers from Israel in their vehicles were arrested by the PA security forces in the past few days.

Palestinians sitting in the trunk of a car in Gaza during the coronavirus outbreak (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinians sitting in the trunk of a car in Gaza during the coronavirus outbreak
(photo credit: REUTERS)
 The Palestinian Authority on Monday warned against attempts to smuggle Palestinian workers in Israel back to their homes in the West Bank in light of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Recently, the PA called on Palestinians workers in Israel to return to their homes for fear they would be infected with the disease. 

In the past few days, however, PA officials have expressed deep concern that the tens of thousands of workers would help spread the disease in the West Bank after their return from Israel. The officials demanded that Israeli authorities coordinate with the PA the return of the workers.
Several Palestinians who were caught trying to smuggle workers from Israel in their vehicles were arrested by the PA security forces in the past few days.
Thousands of Palestinian workers are expected to return to their homes before the start of the Jewish Holiday of Passover. The PA fears that some of the workers may have contracted the disease during their stay in Israel.
The PA Ministry of Health has instructed all the returning workers to remain in isolation in their homes for two weeks to prevent the spread of the disease. Palestinian health officials said that although many have abided by the instructions, others have returned to their homes without notifying the PA.
The PA Ministry of Labor warned on Monday that anyone caught smuggling workers from Israel into the West Bank would be held legally accountable.
 
Members of “emergency committees” set up in various parts of the West Bank have also been deployed at entrances to villages and cities to make sure that the workers returning from Israel would abide by the guidelines published by the PA Ministry of Health. Many of the committee members belong to the ruling Fatah faction.
Also Monday, the PA announced 16 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, raising the total number of Palestinians infected with the disease to 253.
The new cases were detected in the villages of Biddu, Qatannah and Al-Jaderah, south of Ramallah, Khirbet Abu Falah, near Ramallah, and the town of Bani Na’im in the Hebron area.
The PA Ministry of Health said that four of the patients were in critical condition – two of them are being treated in Hugo Chavez Hospital north of Ramallah, while the other two were being treated in Bethlehem.
Mahdi Mureb, spokesman for the PA governor of Hebron, announced that the town of Bani Na’im has been placed in lockdown after the discovery of three residents tested positive for the virus.
The villages of Biddu and Qatannah have also been placed under lockdown, a PA security source said.
The source said that most of the patients who tested positive for the virus in Bani Na’im, Biddu and Qatannah were workers who returned from Israel in the past few days.
Ibrahim Ramadan, the PA governor of Nablus, expressed concern over the phenomenon of smuggling workers from Israel into the West Bank. “Some workers are trying to avoid being tested for the virus or forced into isolation, and this is a big problem,” Ramadan said. “They are endangering their lives and those of their families.”
In a related development, the PA Ministry of National Economy and PA security forces on Monday closed another three unlicensed factories that were producing face masks for protection against the virus that do not meet the standards and specifications of the Ministry of Health. The three factories are located in Tulkarem, Nablus and Hebron.
The ministry said that its teams seized 10,000 face masks and 1,100 medical uniforms during the raid on the three unlicensed businesses. The PA security forces in Hebron also closed a factory in Hebron where disinfectants without a proper permit.