Israel’s destruction of Palestinian property undermines efforts to curb Covid-19

Ongoing demolitions and threats of forcible transfer, amid plans for Israel’s next government to unilaterally annex large parts of the West Bank, jeopardises the health and safety of thousands of Palestinians. A land grab would not only disenfranchise Palestinians and erode their hopes for genuine self-determination, but also sever coordination between Israeli and Palestinian authorities necessary to counter the spread of Covid-19 among both peoples.

“It is Israel’s legal obligation to protect the health and life of Palestinians under occupation,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). “We urge Israeli authorities to immediately cease the unlawful destruction and seizure of property in the West Bank, including humanitarian relief items. This is not the time to undermine global efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

“The international community must act to ensure Israel abides by international law and joins the global call to end political conflicts to fight the pandemic, rather than escalate the vulnerability of Palestinians under occupation,” said Egeland.

Since Israel confirmed its first case of Covid-19 on 21 February, the UN reported that the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) demolished 69 structures in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. This forcibly displaced 63 people and affected 417 others. The structures included 28 residential properties and seven water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. Donor states had provided a third of the destroyed or seized structures as humanitarian relief.   

While the ICA confirmed on 7 April that it will not destroy inhabited residential property in the West Bank to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, it did not extend the freeze to other structures, including infrastructure such as critical WASH facilities, essential to prevent infection.

Restrictions imposed by Israeli and Palestinian authorities to contain Covid-19 have isolated vulnerable communities from local markets and crippled their capacity to earn a living. In contrast to the stimulus package passed to support the Israeli economy and population under strain from public health measures, Israel has demolished 28 Palestinian agricultural and livelihood structures in Area C, exacerbating affected families’ ability to provide for themselves and their communities. Israel has further failed to prevent settler violence against Palestinians and their property, with the UN reporting a surge in attacks since the outbreak of Covid-19.

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