On 16 April, 40-year-old Issa Qattash and his brother were severely beaten and injured by a group of Israeli settlers, while having a picnic with their families in a forest outside of Jibya village (north of Ramallah). “One of the settlers carried a rifle and another an axe”, Issa explained. “My brother Moussa managed to escape to call for help… I laid some time injured on the ground and then the settlers began dragging me out of the area… but then Israeli soldiers arrived and released me, while letting the settlers go.” Fatima Qattash, Issa’s 70-year-old mother, who witnessed the event added: “we were all shocked and scared… the children are still having nightmares!”
As is the case globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has been the dominant concern in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) in recent months. On 5 March 2020, the Palestinian Prime Minister declared a State of Emergency after the first cases were confirmed in Bethlehem city. Measures included the suspension of most commercial and all educational activities, a prohibition on public gatherings, and strict movement restrictions. The emergency was subsequently extended until early June, but has effectively ended since late May, with banks, government ministries, shops, and public transportation networks reopening. In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli-controlled Erez Crossing and Egyptian-controlled Rafah Crossing have been largely closed since mid-March, with incoming travellers sent to quarantine facilities for 14 days, subsequently extended to 21 days. Overall across the oPt, there has been a remarkably low incidence of cases by global standards, with just five fatalities recorded. As of the beginning of June, 630 Palestinians in total are confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, including 179 in East Jerusalem, 390 in the remainder of the West Bank, and 61 in the Gaza Strip
To contain the spread of COVID-19, governments around the world have imposed sweeping restrictions on the freedom of movement of people, severely disrupting their lives. While the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) is no exception, with measures being imposed by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities, these have served to exacerbate longstanding access restrictions that are imposed by the Israeli authorities.
Ahmed, a 50-year-old father of six from Gaza City, was diagnosed in 2018 with advanced colon cancer. Since then, he has been regularly referred to the August Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem for chemotherapy treatment. The suffering related to his disease has been amplified by the uncertainty of the process required to obtain an Israeli-issued exit permit and the hardships of the travel. “It took me about five hours to reach the hospital. It’s physically and mentally exhausting,” Ahmed explains.
Maha (pseudonym) a 40-year-old mother of three, reside in Al-Bureij, one of the poorest and most crowded refugee camps in the central Gaza Strip. Nearly four in ten women in the Gaza Strip face domestic violence, mostly by their partners. Maha is one of them.
According to Ministry of Health (MoH) records, as of 26 April 2020, there were 221 male Palestinians (64.6 per cent) and 121 female Palestinians (35.4 per cent) in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (excluding East Jerusalem) with COVID-19. Seventeen per cent of those who tested positive were children – boys and girls under 18; 63 per cent between the ages of 18 and 50; and 20 per cent were older than 50 years of age. According to MoH in Gaza, as of 25 April 2020, out of a total of 1,971 people who are staying at quarantine facilities in Gaza, 57.2 per cent (1,123) are males and 42.8 per cent (848) are females
Mohammed, 35 and father of three, from Beit Hanoun, was shot with a live bullet in the leg during the first “Great March of Return” (GMR) demonstration on 30 March 2018. “I went through 25 surgeries, but I’m still in pain,” he told OCHA. As a result of his disability, Mohammed lost his job as a construction worker and the economic situation of his family began to deteriorate. “My wife couldn’t bear with my situation and with the poverty, so we got divorced. My life is nothing, but a misery.”
The new year has witnessed increased tension in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), particularly in Gaza. The most serious escalation occurred on 23 and 24 February, following the killing, by Israel, of a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), who was attempting to place an explosive device along the perimeter fence with Israel; in an incident caught on camera, his body was subsequently retrieved by an Israeli bulldozer, in a manner that triggered widespread outrage across the Gaza Strip.
Akkaba, (population 345), is a village in the Tulkarm governorate in the northern West Bank. About 88 per cent of the community’s 2,200 dunums of land is located in the closed area between the Barrier and the Green Line, the “Seam Zone”. In 2002, following a wave of Palestinian attacks, including suicide bombings, Israel began building the Barrier with the stated aim of preventing these attacks. The vast majority of the Barrier’s route is located within the West Bank, isolating Palestinian communities and farming land, and contributing to the fragmentation of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
In September 2018, following an attack by Israeli settlers, Suhad and Ahmad concluded that their family could no longer stay in Tel Rumeida, located in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron city (H2). Suhad and their three children left for another part of the city, while Ahmad has continued living in the same home, from where he runs his business. “Buying a new apartment was a huge economic effort, but I had to think of the welfare of my children.”.