Life came to a standstill in all West Bank cities and towns on Monday as the curfew and strict lockdown Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh declared the day before in order to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus disease, Covid-19, went into effect.
Shops were shuttered, except for the essential ones, and streets were almost empty of people and motorists as police barricades on the roads checked papers of those moving around to make sure they have been exempted from the lockdown.
The prime minister said in a televised speech that the strict measures were important to keep people home, an important step to stop the spread of the pandemic that has so far claimed lives of thousands of people around the world.
The decision to impose around-the-clock curfew on all cities and towns came as world governments saw in this step as the most effective one to prevent the rapid spread of the disease by keeping people off the streets and in their homes.
Schools and universities, theatres, restaurants, shopping centres, gyms, event halls and all places where people gather have been shuttered since Palestine declared a state of emergency on March 5 to fight coronavirus following the discovery of the first seven cases in Bethlehem of people who were in contact with foreign tourists visiting the cradle of Christianity, the birth city of Jesus Christ.
Since then, all hotels were closed as tourists had left the city and all hotel bookings were cancelled.
Palestine has reported 59 confirmed coronavirus cases so far, most in the southern biblical city of Bethlehem where 17 confirmed cases have recovered, followed by Ramallah with 10 cases.
The Gaza Strip had its first two cases on Sunday, in Palestinians returning home from Pakistan.
‘I hereby declare the following set of new strict precautionary measures against the spread of Covid-19,’ said Prime Minister Shtayyeh in his televised speech on Sunday, in which in announced the following measures:
1. Movement between governorates shall be banned.
2. Residents of villages and refugee camps shall be banned from reaching city centres, except for emergency reasons.
3. All citizens shall be prohibited from leaving their homes according to the mandatory quarantine, as of 10:00pm on 22/30/2020, except:
- Health facilities and employees, who may provide and show a proof of their IDs.
- Bakery Shops.
- Grocery stores.
- Gas and fuel stations.
- Municipal services, water and electricity service facilities.
4. All Palestinian citizens coming back from abroad shall be placed under a mandatory quarantine for a period of 14 days in quarantine centres in their governorates.
5. Banks shall work under a state of emergency, and employees may provide a proof of their IDs and/or employee badges.
6. Workers in settlements are strictly forbidden from reaching their workplaces inside settlements.
7. We call upon Israel to provide humanitarian conditions for workers who stay overnight in their workplaces.
8. We call upon Israel, as an occupying power, to assume its responsibilities towards our citizens in the city of Jerusalem, and from our side we will assume our responsibilities towards our citizens there.
9. We hold the occupying power responsible for protecting the prisoners and we call for an immediate release of those who are sick, children and women.
10. In light of our request to our citizens to stay in their homes, we call on our families in the 1948 lands not to move between Palestinian territories and/or in their place of residence inside the 1948 lands.
11. All directorates of ministries in governorates shall be closed, except Health, Finance, National Economy, Social Development and Civil Affairs directorates.
12. Security forces and police, and the rest of security services, will be deployed in various city centres and entrances in order to preserve public security and implement full procedures. Whoever violates the procedures exposes himself to the declared penal code.
13. We assure our citizens that all supplies are available in sufficient quantities.
14. The duration of these procedures is 14 days from its date, and we shall follow up on the evolution of events every day.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates on Monday strongly condemned the Israeli killing of a Palestinian man in the West Bank and said it will take up his case, and other Israeli killings of Palestinians, with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
On Sunday night, Israeli forces killed Sufian Khawaja, 29, from the village of Nilin, west of Ramallah, after opening fire at a car he was in along with his cousin, who was injured.
Witnesses said the Israeli soldiers seized the body after barring a Palestinian ambulance from taking it to hospital.
The Israeli army claimed it opened fire at Palestinians who were throwing rocks at Israeli vehicles in the area killing one and injuring another, who the army claimed got away and was being pursued by them.
The foreign ministry said in a statement that it holds the Israeli ‘occupation government fully responsible for this crime’, and called on the ICC and UNHRC ‘to act to force the occupation state to abide by international law and to prosecute the perpetrators and those who stand behind them’.
On Sunday night and early on Monday morning, Israeli forces detained five Palestinians, including two minors, from the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.
Witnesses said that Israeli soldiers detained two men from Sineria village, and one more from Azzoun town, both in the Qalqilya governorate, after raiding and ransacking their homes.
Israeli police also detained two minors from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Issawiya.
- A Palestinian serving a life sentence in Israeli prisons for his resistance to its occupation on Sunday completed 17 years behind bars.
Head of the Jenin branch of the Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS), Muntaser Sammoor, said that Hani Ibrahim Khamayseh, from the town of Yamoun, west of the northern West Bank city of Jenin, was detained on March 23, 2003 and sentenced to life in prison for his resistance activities.
Khamayseh was born in Algiers and return to his homeland in 1998, after which he joined the Palestinian Military Intelligence in the West Bank. His parents live in Jordan.
There are over 5,000 Palestinians serving time in Israeli jails for resisting the occupation.
On Sunday, as part of coronavirus containment measures, President Mahmoud Abbas granted an amnesty to civil detainees who have completed more than half their imprisonment sentence, said Nabil Abu Rudainah, spokesman for the President.
Abu Rudainah said nevertheless, the amnesty, which aims to reduce crowding at penitentiaries during the current health crisis, retains the right of the victims to a civil claim.
He added that the amnesty does not apply to those convicted of certain felonies of a serious nature.
- Minister of National Economy, Khaled Ossaili, said yesterday that suppliers who raise the prices of essential goods that are urgently demanded by the public at this critical health crisis will be banned from the market.
Speaking to a meeting of the suppliers of basic commodities at the headquarters of the Ministry of National Economy in Ramallah, Ossaili said a standardised price cap list of essential commodities will be mainstreamed and made available to the public so that suppliers who breach the price cap will be held accountable.
Fears of a growing coronavirus crisis in Palestine in recent days ushered in a greater public demand for essential goods such as rice, oil and other basic items, with some complaining about higher prices in some areas in the West Bank.