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The Israeli army on Tuesday demolished a Palestinian drive-through coronavirus testing centre in the city of Hebron, south of the occupied West Bank. Soldiers had watched for two months as the facility was being built. When it was near completion they sent in the bulldozers to destroy it.

A second wave of coronavirus infections has hit the West Bank in the past two weeks. The authorities have been struggling to contain the pandemic. The testing centre was part of the strategy to prevent the virus from spreading further. Now the testing centre has been destroyed, the work of the local health authority has been made more difficult.

Raed Maswadeh, a 35-year-old engineer whose family owns the land in which the drive-through test service was being built, told Middle East Eye that three months ago the municipality had appealed to Palestinians to raise funds to build the facility.

“My family decided to donate our land at the northern entrance of Hebron for the purpose of constructing a Covid-19 test clinic,” Maswadeh said.

The centre was built in the memory of his grandfather, who died recently of the coronavirus. Maswadeh said the project cost his family around $250,000.

The land where the centre was based is located in Area C, a part of the West Bank totally controlled by Israel, which almost never gives out building permits for Palestinian residents. Israeli settlers in the area, however, face no such problems.

Maswadeh said that they started building the centre without a permit, like many properties in the area.

“If we applied for a permit, we would not have been granted it. We thought maybe during Covid-19, there would be some exceptions,” he said.

The idea of the project was to ease pressure on hospitals in Hebron treating Covid-19 patients, which have reached full capacity.

Maswadeh told Middle East Eye that construction had been ongoing for two months, while Israeli soldiers patrolled the area. The soldiers watched bulldozers and building equipment enter the site, but said nothing, according to Maswadeh.

On 12 July, they received a military order to stop the construction.

Human right lawyer Farid al-Atrash said: “Israel in general makes the process for Palestinians to fight this virus more difficult. Since the PA stopped coordination with Israel, the Israelis have been using all different means to put pressure on the PA to reinstate coordination,” he said.

“They will do everything to make our lives as hard as possible here.”

A total of 468 new coronavirus cases and three deaths from the disease were recorded in the occupied Palestinian territories over the past 24 hours, the Palestinian Ministry of Health confirmed today, leaving the active cases at 8,360 and total deaths at 65.

It added that 40 patients are currently in intensive care units, including three placed on respirators, with no reports of recoveries.

Elsewhere, Israeli forces injured a Palestinian man at the Jenin refugee camp, reported Wafa. Local sources said soldiers stormed Jenin and its refugee camp early this morning to arrest activists. Occupation forces shot at Palestinians in the area, according to the reports, injuring one person in the leg.

Two people were arrested before the soldiers left the city and the checkpoint was destroyed.

Despite the coronavirus outbreak, Israeli authorities continue to abuse the most vulnerable Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank, as part of decades-long attempts to drive them out of the area, and to similarly mistreat Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

According to B’Tselem, last month saw a spike in Israeli demolitions, which left 151 Palestinians, including 84 minors, homeless – despite the danger of remaining without shelter during a pandemic.


source: B’Tselem, Wafa, MEE


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