- This past week the Gaza Strip was quiet, with attention focused on dealing with the coronavirus. In Judea and Samaria an Israeli vehicle was the target of a shooting attack west of Ramallah (no casualties were reported). Palestinians continued throwing stones at Israeli vehicles on the roads in Judea and Samaria.
- Most Hamas and Palestinian Authority (PA) attention was focused on providing a response to the spread of the coronavirus. Today 41 people in the PA are infected with the coronavirus, 37 in the Bethlehem district, two in the Tulkarm district, one in Ramallah and one diagnosed at the Allenby Bridge Crossing. According to the ministry of health in the Gaza Strip, so far no one has been diagnosed in the Gaza Strip as being ill with the virus (as of March 17, 2020).
- The PA government and the Hamas de facto administration have taken various steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including the following:
- The PA declared a state of emergency. A closure was imposed on the Bethlehem district, but so far not on the Tulkarm district. The PA ministry of endowments ordered Palestinians to pray at home rather than in the mosques; the chairman of the PA’s monetary authority announced instructions for banks to ensure the continuation of economic activity; the PA’s crossings administration announced that anyone crossing the Allenby Bridge would have to remain in quarantine for 14 days; the Palestinian treasury minister reportedly met with his Israeli counterpart and demanded Israel unfreeze for the PA all the funds it holds for the PA, to enable it to deal better with the outbreak of the virus.
- In the Gaza Strip the Hamas de factor administration and Hamas movement (including its military wing) made preparations to prevent the spread of the virus: the Erez and Rafah Crossings were closed, with the exception of humanitarian and emergency cases (the Kerem Shalom Crossing remains open for the delivery of merchandise); a field hospital was opened at the Rafah Crossing and a school in Rafah was converted into a quarantine center (which led to protests from local residents). In addition, it was decided to erect 1,000 quarantine units in Rafah and the northern Gaza Strip to quarantine patients. Hamas’ military wing has already begun constructing them. Schools and universities will remain closed until the end of March; government institutions were forbidden to hold activities or gatherings involving more than 100 people.
- The Supreme National Authority for the Return Marches and the Struggle Against the Deal of the Century continues holding meetings in preparation for planned renewal of the return marches on March 30, 2020. A Supreme National Authority member who is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said the march would be held despite the measures being taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. However, in ITIC assessment, it is doubtful that a mass march will be held in defiance of prohibition on gatherings and Hamas’ focusing on measures to prevent an outbreak of the coronavirus in the Gaza Strip.
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