On 29 August 2020, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) sent an urgent appeal to the United Nations (UN) Special Procedures regarding the deterioration of the situation in the Gaza Strip amidst the outbreak of COVID-19 and the tightening of the blockade by the Israeli authorities.
Addressed to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian Territory and the UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, PCHR urgently requested intervention to uphold the right to health of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by demanding that Israel comply with its obligations under international law towards Gaza residents and urging the international community to support Gaza’s overburdened healthcare system, which can barely meet the basic medical needs of the population.
The urgent appeal comes in light of the announcement of the Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip on 24 August 2020 that had discovered the first cases of COVID-19 outside of quarantine facilities, after four cases were detected among members of the same family in Al-Maghazi refugee camp. Prior to that date, there were COVID-19 cases detected only in quarantine facilities for those returning from Egypt or Israel.
The appeal highlighted the dire situation of Gaza’s health care system caused by Israel’s 13-year-old blockade and its inability to deal with a potential influx of people suffering from the pandemic due to critical shortage of medicines, supplies, and equipment as well as insufficient number of specialized health professionals and facilities.
Restrictions on freedom of movement of individuals and goods, and the targeting and destruction of civilian infrastructure during offensives, has devastated Gaza’s health system over the years, making it incapable of meeting the basic medical needs of 2 million Palestinians. Moreover, recent Israeli restrictive measures, which include a ban on the entry of fuel, has led to the shutdown of Gaza’s sole power plant, further exacerbating the health situation.
Accordingly, PCHR requested the UN Special Procedures to intervene to uphold the right of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during the pandemic, and in particular, to:
- Call on Israel, the occupying power, to ensure the supply of the necessary medications and medical equipment necessary for the treatment of COVID-19 patients to hospitals in the Gaza Strip in accordance with its obligations under international law.
- Demand Israel to remove recent restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip, and allow the entry of fuel required to operate the Gaza Power Plant to improve the functioning of Gaza’s health care system.
- Further demand Israel to rescind all existing restrictions on the transfer of medical equipment and spare parts for this equipment from and Strip, and not to classify them as dual-use items.
- Pressure Israel to allow the passage of medical teams to and from the Gaza Strip, and ensure passage without delay for Gaza residents in need of medical care for COVID-19 outside the Gaza Strip, whether in Israeli hospitals, West Bank hospitals, or abroad.
- Call upon the international community to provide aid to hospitals in the Gaza Strip immediately to combat the spread of COVID-19.