SAEB EREKAT, the Secretary-General of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), has called on Israeli authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Palestinian prisoner and cancer patient Kamal Abu Wa’ar, who on Sunday tested positive for coronavirus.
The PLO secretary general warned that an outbreak of coronavirus inside Israeli prisons would bring about an inevitable catastrophe, which Israel is responsible for, and it will lead to an implacable explosion of anger.
Erekat said in a statement that the Palestinian leadership has been reaching out to all relevant international bodies to exert pressure on Israel to release sick prisoners, the elderly and women, in light of the danger of an outbreak of coronavirus that threatens their lives.
Abu Wa’ar, who is suffering from throat cancer and is serving a life sentence, was recently taken by prison authorities to a hospital in Ramle due to his deteriorating condition, where he was confirmed to have tested positive for Covid-19.
‘We have warned the international community over the past months of the risk of the virus spreading in prisons, and we have appealed to all countries and human rights organisations to intervene,’ Erekat said in the statement.
‘Israel’s disregard for Palestinian and international demands, its lack of compliance with international humanitarian law, and the death of prisoner Sadi Gharabli, 75, of prostate cancer and due medical negligence by the Israel Prison Service, means that the international community must not stand by, but intervene immediately to hold Israel accountable for its violations,’ he said.
Erekat reaffirmed his demand to open Israeli prisons to an international committee for inspection and investigation to ensure that the occupation authorities take preventive measures against the spread of the virus, and to ensure the prisoners’ safety and protection.
He called on the International Criminal Court to expedite the opening of a criminal investigation before it is too late.
- The Palestinian Authority’s Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs reported on Sunday that three Palestinian detainees in Israeli detention are still on the hunger strike they declared a few weeks ago in protest against their administrative detention without charge or trial.
The Commission said in a statement that Odi Shehadeh, 24, from Deheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, and Fadi Ghneimat, 40, from the town of Surif, in the south of the West Bank, have been on hunger strike for 20 and 19 days in a row respectively at Ofer military camp near Ramallah.
The third prisoner, Mahmoud Saadi, from Jenin refugee camp in the north of the West Bank, has been on hunger strike for 12 days and is being held at Hadarim prison.
Palestinians in administrative detention resort to hunger strike to force Israel to release them because otherwise they could be left in prison for long periods of time without charge or trial based only on secret evidence not even available to their lawyers.
There are currently over 350 Palestinian administrative detainees in Israeli detention, including women and minors, who are imprisoned without charge or trial.
- On Sunday, The Ministry of Health confirmed 349 new coronavirus cases and one death, raising the total number of confirmed cases and the death toll in the occupied territories since the pandemic outbreak to 7,037 and 37 respectively.
According to the Ministry’s statement, 166 of the new cases were in the Hebron district, 105 in East Jerusalem, 49 in Ramallah, 11 in Bethlehem, seven in Nablus, and six in Tulkarm.
The Ministry also reported six deaths due to corona in the West Bank in the last 24 hours, bringing the total corona-related deaths to 37.
It said that 408 patients have recovered, of whom 399 were in the Hebron district, six in the Nablus area and three in Gaza, bringing the overall recoveries in Palestine to 1,116.
The Ministry added 16 patients are in intensive care – seven of these are on respirators.
Of the total 7,037 corona cases, the West Bank had 6,230, Gaza 72 and East Jerusalem 807.
The number of active cases now stands at 5,763.
- The Trump administration unveiled its ‘Deal of the Century’ Israeli-Palestinian peace plan in January.
While senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, praised the proposal Palestinian Authority officials rejected it out of hand, suggesting it would never be agreed to and belonged in the ‘garbage can of history’.
Moscow considers it impossible to endorse President Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century peace plan’ because it does not take the interests of all parties involved into account, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative for the Middle East and Africa, said in an interview.
Commenting on a telephone conversation with Avi Berkowitz (a senior advisor to Jared Kushner, the Trump peace plan architect), Bogdanov said that Berkowitz ‘called me and began to argue the need to push the “Deal of the Century” forward.
‘I told him that this was impossible, because the US side knows the position of the Palestinians, the position of all Arabs and the Arab League on this matter perfectly well.’
The deputy foreign minister said he’d made it ‘perfectly clear’ to his American counterpart that Russia recognises a Palestinian state within the borders that existed prior to 1967 and its capital as East Jerusalem.
‘Our position is unchanging and consistent’, he stressed.
Bogdanov also dismissed a report by American news website Axios citing Western diplomats which suggested that Russia had offered to facilitate a meeting between the US and Palestinian Authority officials in Geneva in the coming weeks. ‘What summit? What Geneva? This is complete nonsense!’ Bogdanov said.
He said he’d informed Berkowitz on the need to assemble the Middle East Quartet (Russia, The United States, The European Union and the United Nations) ‘to discuss the situation and to see how to get out of it.’
Last Wednesday, Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, indicated that Moscow was ready to hold a teleconference of the Middle East Quartet to help mediate the recent escalating tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Nebenzya’s comments followed remarks by Palestine Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas this week indicating that the Palestinian side had terminated all of its agreements with Israel and the United States over Tel Aviv’s plans to ‘annex’ Palestinian territories in the West Bank.
Israel’s new unity government revealed plans to ‘extend sovereignty’ over as much as 30 per cent of the West Bank as soon as July 1st, in accordance with proposals outlined in Trump’s Deal of the Century ‘peace plan’.
The Trump administration unveiled this long-awaited Deal of the Century peace plan in January, which envisions a two-state solution, including the recognition of Israeli claims to settler areas in the West Bank, the extension of Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, and the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
For the Palestinians, the plan offered $50 billion in infrastructure and investment assistance, and promised a few neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem for a Palestinian state capital.
President Abbas rejected the proposal out of hand, declaring Jerusalem was ‘not for sale’ and that the plan itself belonged in the ‘garbage can of history’.