Israel has continuously coordinated with the Palestinian Authority in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing equipment and training, the extent of which the Health Ministry and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) stated in their response to a petition to the High Court on Thursday.
“Israel is working in cooperation and coordination with the relevant factors in the PA and various factors in the international arena to provide great and varied aid for the Palestinian population to deal with the coronavirus, far beyond what is legally required,” the response reads.
The government described the aid following a petition from Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, which is demanding that Israel provide more care to Palestinians and provide the public with details of what it is already doing.
The response pointed out that since 1995, when Oslo II was signed, the Palestinian Authority has had responsibility for healthcare in its areas, and that Hamas, which took over Gaza in 2007, provides its residents with health services.
Oslo II also states that “Israel and the Palestinian side will exchange information about plagues and contagious diseases, will cooperate in fighting them and develop systems to transfer medical files and documents.”
The Health Ministry and COGAT stated that “Israel is taking many actions to aid the Palestinian side in responding to the coronavirus.” According to information the PA provided Israel, 264 Palestinians in the West Bank and five in Gaza have contracted COVID-19.
Military and government offices have continually coordinated with their PA counterparts, and Israel has worked with Palestinian medical professionals, the document reads.
The Health Ministry held meetings with its counterpart in Ramallah, transferring professional materials translated into Arabic.
In addition, Magen David Adom and Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer held training courses for Palestinian medical teams on how to protect themselves and care for coronavirus patients. Two Palestinian laboratory technicians were trained at Tel Hashomer, and a training session was held at the hospital in Jericho that has been taking in coronavirus patients in the West Bank.
In addition to facilitating donations from the international community, Israel provided the Palestinians with 1,950 coronavirus testing kits and 2,400 swabs for testing.
ISRAEL ALSO coordinated with the PA when its residences located in Israel were found to have coronavirus, enacting a “back-to-back” protocol for the patients to go from Israeli to Palestinian ambulances.
In addition, Israeli authorities notified the PA when Palestinians entered through Ben-Gurion Airport or the Allenby Crossing from Jordan, so the PA could make sure they were quarantined.
Palestinians with chronic illnesses continue to be allowed into Israel for life-saving treatment; dozens of buses enter each day.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov has praised the “excellent cooperation” between Israel and the PA on fighting coronavirus on numerous occasions.
As for Gaza, the Health Ministry established a special team to respond to a possible outbreak, in cooperation with the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders. The team facilitated the transfer of aid into Gaza that allowed for the establishment of a field hospital for coronavirus patients.
The ministry reported receiving only two requests from foreign doctors to enter Gaza, both of which were authorized.
Gazans have also been allowed into Israel for life-saving treatments that are not available locally, but the number of requests has drastically declined. From March 10 to April 30, only 350 Gazans asked to enter Israel for medical care, whereas last year 4,025 did in the same time period.
The government’s response said that, “beyond what is described above, additional, many and various actions were taken to deal with coronavirus in Gaza, but they cannot be detailed in the framework of this response out of concern for harming Israel’s foreign relations.”
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel CEO Ran Goldstein said that Israel’s aid to the Palestinians is “symbolic at best.”
“This aid is far from giving a response to the tremendous shortage in the West Bank and Gaza of swabs, medical supplies, medicines and training for medical teams,” Goldstein argued. “In order to ensure that the crisis that already exists in Gaza does not deteriorate into a humanitarian crisis, we must significantly increase the amount of aid and do so transparently.”
Goldstein said Israel has a moral imperative to help the Palestinians, and called for the Health Ministry to do all it can to curb the spread of coronavirus and support the Palestinian health system.