Palestinian Prime Minister Calls on Israel to Close West Bank Crossings to Curb Coronavirus Spread

During the first wave of the virus, Israel allowed the Palestinian Authority to place checkpoints in Area C, but now Shtayyeh says Israel is preventing them from doing so

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Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh wears a protective face mask during a tour as the coronavirus restrictions ease, in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank June 15, 2020.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh wears a protective face mask during a tour as the coronavirus restrictions ease, in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank June 15, 2020. Credit: Mohamad Torokman / Reuters

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Monday called on Israel to close all crossings to the West Bank, in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

Speaking ahead of a government meeting in Ramallah, Shtayyeh said he would address the UN on the issue of crossings, saying that Israel has prevented the Palestinian Authority from setting up checkpoints in Area C to prevent the movement of Palestinian residents between different parts of the West Bank.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas extended the West Bank state of emergency last month.

Shtayyeh also called on community leaders to urge the public to avoid holding large events, particularly weddings and funerals.

According to the latest figures from the Palestinian Health Ministry, there are currently 4,089 active coronavirus cases in the West Bank, the majority of them in the Hebron area. Eight people are in a serious condition and three are on life support. 

A Coronavirus patient's funeral in Hebron, July 5, 2020.
A Coronavirus patient's funeral in Hebron, July 5, 2020.Credit: Mussa Issa Qawasma / Reuters

A Palestinian woman from the Hebron area also died on Monday from COVID-19, bringing the total death toll in the West Bank to 20. Eleven people have died over the past week.

During the first wave of the virus, Israel allowed the Palestinian Authority to place checkpoints in Area C in the West Bank. According to the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority is not allowed to exert policing force in Area C, which is under full Israeli control.

However, the Palestinian Authority, in coordination with Israel, was granted permission to set up roadblocks on Israel's behalf in C areas, mainly on access roads leading to the various villages to prevent the spread of the virus between the various villages and districts.

In addition, during this period, the Palestinian police also operated in the Kfar Aqab neighborhood of Jerusalem beyond the separation barrier - but Israel subsequently put a stop to such operations enforcing coronavirus restrictions.

Israel later conducted several enforcement operations on its own, through the IDF and the police - despite the fact that IDF activity in the area is considered exceptional, in part because soldiers do not have the authority to arrest villagers, since they are under Jerusalem's jurisdiction. During their operations, the troops removed signs posted by the Palestinian Authority in the neighborhood.

Following the declaration of Israel's intention to annex parts of the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority ceased security and civilian coordination with Israel — in contrast to the first wave, when the PA and Israel agreed to work together to combat the virus.

In response to Shtayyeh's comments, COGAT later said that as of yet, they have received no such request "from relevant Palestinian Authority officials," and "when such a request is made, it will be reviewed accordingly by all relevant security bodies."

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