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Source: MIL-OSI Submissions
Source: Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa

The Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa has renewed its call for the government to act urgently after the dreaded news this week that Covid 19 has broken out in the densely-packed community.

On 22 March this year we sent the Prime Minister an open letter asking the government to speak out against the Israeli blockade of Gaza under threat of Covid 19.

The letter and key signatories are here and include New Zealander of the year and President of Equity New Zealand Jennifer Te Atamira Ward-Lealand, Catholic Cardinal John Dew, Islamic Women’s Council Spokesperson Anjum Rahman and Anglican Bishop of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia Philip Richardson.

Despite heroic efforts to keep the virus out of Gaza, in the last few days there has been a serious outbreak of the pandemic in the blockaded enclave where the two million Palestinians are under threat – social distancing is impossible and washing hands regularly is a pipe dream with 97% of the water unfit to drink.

Last Thursday Gazan health officials said 26 people in several locations had tested positive for COVID-19 and two patients had died. From the same report…

Ignacio Casares Garcia, head of the Gaza Subdelegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said hospitals and health centers in the territory did not have sufficient medical equipment and medication for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

“The Gaza healthcare system would not be able to deal with more than a few dozen coronavirus patients,” he said in a statement, calling for more international assistance.

Israeli media today reported that Covid 19 cases in Gaza now number 145 – well past the “few dozen” the health authorities there are able to deal with.

The Palestinian leadership in Gaza, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, the International Red Cross and Palestinian and Israeli human rights organisations have all called in recent days for Israel to open Gaza’s borders to allow fuel and essential medical supplies to enter urgently. Israel is unmoved.

Gaza is desperately short of Covid 19 testing kits, for example, and containment of the pandemic is impossible without them. Similarly, hospitals have only a few days of fuel left for their generators, and Israel has blocked shipments, risking the lives not only of existing patients, but also the many more resulting from the Covid 19 outbreak. A humanitarian catastrophe is imminent.

We have urged the government to protect the most vulnerable Palestinians by:

* Joining with concerned national and international human rights organisations in calling on the Israeli Government to immediately lift the illegal Gaza blockade to allow urgently needed medical supplies and fuel into Gaza, and
* Making an immediate urgent humanitarian donation to assist in fighting the Covid 19 outbreak in Gaza.

It is not possible for New Zealand to look the other way, however much the racist Israeli government would like them to.

John Minto
National Chair