Israel has reopened a number of crossings following an agreement with the Palestinian Authority (PA), in a move that allows thousands of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank seeking employment opportunities to return to work, despite fears of being exposed to the new coronavirus.
The two-day opening, expected to last until Monday, will see some 40,000 Palestinians cross over for work, mostly in construction and agriculture.
The move comes in conjunction with an easing of restrictions that were in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in Israel but was criticized by rights groups who accused Israeli authorities of failing to secure the safety of the workers.
PA Minister of Health Mai Alkaila confirmed today two more cases of the novel coronavirus in Jerusalem, which brings up the total number of confirmed cases in Palestine to 522, many of which were believed to be contracted by workers who cross over to Israel.
Since early March, the PA has closed schools, universities and has imposed a state of emergency to ensure physical distancing was being observed – this has also led to a near-complete halt of movement.
Up to 20 percent of employed Palestinians work in Israel and in illegal Jewish settlements built on occupied Palestinian land.
Despite the dangers associated with the pandemic, many Palestinians still choose to risk their lives for wages during a particularly financially challenging time.
On March 24, a Palestinian worker exhibiting coronavirus symptoms was found dumped by Israeli authorities at the Beit Sira checkpoint that connects Israel and the occupied West Bank.
The worker was later picked up by Palestinian health workers and rushed to the National Hospital of Nablus where his COVID-19 test was negative, reported Wafa News Agency.
A few days later, despite the coronavirus outbreak in Israel, Israeli occupation forces opened several wastewater tunnels near the West Bank city of Qalqiliya to smuggle Palestinian workers back into the West Bank.
Source: The Palestine Chronicle