The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has held the Israeli regime “fully responsible” for the consequences of any COVID-19 outbreak in the besieged Gaza Strip.
“The Israeli occupation, which has been imposing a blockade on Gaza for 13 years, will bear responsibility for the repercussions of any coronavirus spread in the Strip,” the Palestinian Information Center quoted Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem as saying in a press conference on Thursday.
The COVID-19 disease, caused by a new coronavirus, was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and is currently affecting over 200 countries and territories across the globe. It has so far affected more than 962,690 people and killed over 49,185.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has already declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.
Official figures by Palestine’s health ministry shows that as of Thursday, 160 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and one individual has died so far. Around a dozen of the infected people are in Gaza Strip, home to nearly two million people, and the rest are in the occupied West Bank.
The Hamas spokesman also said that Tel Aviv is committing a compounding crime through its persisting in besieging the enclave during the current pandemic, stressing that Hamas and all other resistance and national groups will continue their struggle to break the unjust blockade.
The majority of population of Gaza lives in tightly packed refugee camps, where social distancing is hardly feasible and the new coronavirus can rampage there if necessary safety measures are not taken.
Israeli minister’s remarks on aid to Gaza ‘inhumane’: Rights group
Separately on Thursday, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor lambasted comments by Israeli minister for military affairs Naftali Bennett about sending anti-COVID19 aid to the Gaza Strip.
A day earlier, the Israeli minister had suggested that any future coronavirus assistance for the blockaded sliver be contingent on recovering the remains of two Israeli soldiers who died in 2014.
In a statement, the Euro-Med Monitor condemned Bennett’s linking of Gaza’s urgent humanitarian needs to any other issue as an “inhumane act,” calling for separating the humanitarian issues from any political calculations.
It also warned against using civilians as a means of pressure to achieve gains at the expense of their lives and safety.
A UK-based rights group calls on the European governments and parliaments to put pressure on the Israeli regime to provide Palestinian prisoners with enough protection against the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 outbreak in Gaza can lead to catastrophe: Committee
Additionally on Thursday, the International Committee for Breaking the Siege of Gaza warned in a statement that the worsening humanitarian and health situation in the densely-populated enclave entailed urgent international intervention.
Zahir Birawi, the head of the UK-based committee, also called for urgent international action to break the siege on the Gaza Strip and provide it with medicine and necessary medical supplies,
particularly now that the pandemic rages across the world and the presence of some quarantined cases in the enclave.
He warned that any spread of the new coronavirus in Gaza meant a “humanitarian catastrophe in every sense of the word”.
Gaza has been under an Israeli siege through air, land and sea since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standards of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.
The Israeli regime denies Gazans their basic rights, such as freedom of movement, jobs with proper wages as well as adequate healthcare and education.
Since 2008, Israel has waged three wars against Gaza and thousands of Gazans have been killed in each of these deadly wars.