“There is no humanity in destroying grassroots attempts to support an already deprived health system suffocated by occupation.”
Palestinians living near the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the occupied West Bank are without a badly-needed testing and quarantine center following the Israeli government’s demolition of a building that was meant to give relief to overwhelmed hospitals.
The Israeli Civil Administration demolished the building, being constructed on land belonging to Palestinian Hebron resident Hazem Maswada, on Tuesday, claiming the structure was being erected illegally without a permit. The building was set to open to the public next week.
The demolition came as Hebron recorded the most coronavirus cases in the West Bank. The Palestinian Health Ministry said Wednesday that there were 154 new cases in Hebron district the day the building was destroyed, including 60 in the city itself.
Hospitals in Hebron are filled to capacity, the Middle East Eye reported Tuesday.
“The cruelty of the occupation knows no bounds,” tweeted Palestinian rights advocacy group If Not Now.
The Israeli government demolished a Palestinian coronavirus testing center for the crime of… not having a permit.
The cruelty of the occupation knows no bounds and it’s on all of us to materially oppose it.https://t.co/oK41vTOykL
— IfNotNow🔥 (@IfNotNowOrg) July 21, 2020
According to Haaretz, the Palestinian Health Ministry was involved in the decision to build the coronavirus center, and Maswada donated his land to the city of Hebron temporarily to help the community during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Maswada family told the Middle East Eye that the project cost them about $250,000 and that they built the center in memory of their grandfather, who died of Covid-19.
Construction began three months ago, and the family did not apply for a permit from the Israeli government; Israel controls the area in which Hebron lies, known as Area C, where Palestinians are rarely granted building permits.
“If we applied for a permit, we would not have gotten it,” Maswada told the Middle East Eye. “We thought maybe during Covid-19, there would be some exceptions.”
Maswada told the Civil Administration that the building was to be used for testing and quarantine measures after officials issued a demolition order on July 12, but to no avail.
The administration used an order reserved for new construction, which can be carried out within 96 hours, making appeals nearly impossible.
Israel’s assault on Palestinians’ ability to fight the pandemic is “nothing new,” tweeted Daniel Lubin, an organizer with the British anti-occupation group Na’amod.
In March, the Civil Administration confiscated tents that were meant to form a field clinic and emergency housing in the West Bank during the pandemic.
“There is no humanity in destroying grassroots attempts to support an already deprived health system suffocated by occupation,” tweeted Lubin.
In recent months, Israel has drawn international condemnation by preparing to annex 30% of the West Bank, leading Palestinian leaders to end all coordination with Israeli officials.
The deterioration in relations between Israel and Palestine in recent weeks has hampered the region’s ability to combat the pandemic, the United Nations said Wednesday.
“Israel in general makes the process for Palestinians to fight this virus more difficult,” Farid al-Atrash, a human rights lawyer in Hebron, told the Middle East Eye. “Since the [Palestinian Authority] stopped coordination with Israel, the Israelis have been using all different means to put pressure on the PA to reinstate coordination. They will do everything to make our lives as hard as possible here.”