Eight senior US senators have urged the US Administration to provide assistance to the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip to help them confront and overcome the coronavirus pandemic.
“President Trump recently offered assistance to other countries fighting the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic, including North Korea and Iran. This principle of providing humanitarian aid to those in need should also apply to the Palestinian people,” the senators said in a letter addressed to US secretary of state Mike Pompeo.
“We write to urge the Administration to take every reasonable step to provide medicine, medical equipment, and other necessary assistance to the West Bank and Gaza Strip (Palestinian Territories) to prevent a humanitarian disaster.”
“As of March 24, 2020, there are at least 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the West Bank, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) has declared a state of emergency and set up a joint operations room with Israel to combat the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, as of March 24, the first two cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the Gaza Strip, and a quarantine facility has been established on the Gaza side of Egypt’s Rafah crossing. However, Gaza, with a population of approximately 1.8 million people and one of the most densely populated areas of the world, has a weak public health system, and has been subject to a blockade and border restrictions since 2007.”
“According to the United Nations (UN), 38 percent of residents live in poverty, 54 percent are food insecure, 35 percent of Gaza’s arable land and 85 percent of its fishing waters are totally or partially inaccessible due to Israeli military measures, and more than 90 percent of its water is undrinkable. In addition, about one-third of essential medications are unavailable, and despite their ability to cross into Egypt, Gazans remain isolated and cut off from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory. According to a recent news report on the coronavirus, health ministry officials in Gaza observed that just one person infected with the deadly virus would end in ‘complete disaster’ […] and [there is] no way of isolating the ill or preventing spread of the disease,” the letter elaborated.
They said that with the cut in US aid to the Palestinians since January 2018, particularly to UNRWA, “which supports the basic health care needs of millions of Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, and surrounding countries,” and as “ the COVID-19 pandemic poses an unprecedented health, diplomatic, and economic threat … it is in the national security interest of the US and in the interest of the Palestinian people and our ally Israel … to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the Palestinian territories.”
“Given the spread of the coronavirus in the West Bank and Gaza, the extreme vulnerability of the health system in Gaza, and the continued withholding of US aid to the Palestinian people, we are concerned that the Administration is failing to take every reasonable step to help combat this public health emergency in the Palestinian territories,” they added.
The senators demanded answers to several questions by April 3, pertaining in general to the steps the US Administration intends to take to provide assistance to the Palestinian people in such difficult times.
The letter was signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren, Chris Van Hollen, Patrick Leahy, Tom Udall, Thomas R. Carper, Bernard Sanders, Jeffrey A. Merkley, Thomas R. Carper and Sherrod Brown.