Police in Ramallah have arrested a woman accused of shouting “corona, corona” at, and assaulting, a Japanese aid worker, in an incident connected to fears over the novel coronavirus.
The incident took place on Sunday afternoon, involving a Palestinian woman, her daughter and two Japanese aid workers.
In security camera footage, a Japanese woman can be seen holding a phone up, as if filming, as the Palestinian woman shouts “corona, corona”.
The footage then shows the Palestinian woman shoving the Japanese aid worker in the chest before a second Japanese woman intervenes.
In an interview with Wattan News Agency, the Japanese aid worker who was attacked, said “a woman came to me and attacked me, pulled my hair and pushed me”.
The Palestinian women was arrested by police on Sunday night, on suspicion of assault.
The spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of the Interior Brigadier Dr Ghassan Nimer denounced the attack, adding that the event was unique and “does not represent the morals and traditions of the Palestinian people and culture”, nor does it “represent customs and traditions in respecting the guests of Palestine”.
Nimer later called on Palestinian people to “reject such practices and fight them by promoting a culture of protecting people in our home, including guests”, Wattan News Agency reported.
According to Nimer, the two Japanese aid workers have been working for a non-governmental organisation which runs projects to support the Palestinian people in Ramallah for several years.
Since the outbreak of coronavirus in the Chinese province of Wuhan in December 2019, the Embassy of Japan in Israel has reported more than ten complaints of harassment related to the disease from Japanese nationals living in, or visiting, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
To date, Palestine has not reported any confirmed cases of coronavirus within either the occupied West Bank or Gaza Strip.
However, a group of 77 South Korean tourists who visited the country in February were later reported to have nine confirmed cases. In response, the Palestinian Ministry of the Interior closed all facilities and restaurants known to have been visited by the delegation.
The Ministry of Health called on those who had been in contact with the South Korean tourists to self-quarantine and inform local healthcare officials.