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Israel to open coronavirus testing centres in occupied East Jerusalem

April 14, 2020 at 4:22 pm

Israeli medical personnel from the Magen David Adom (MDA) national emergency service swab a resident from the city of Bnei Brak at their complex for COVID-19 testing in the city of Ramat Gan on March 31, 2020, [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]

Israel will open health clinics and coronavirus testing centres for 150,000 Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhoods beyond Israel’s illegal Separation Wall.

The decision comes in response to a petition filed to the High Court of Justice by Adalah, the Israeli Arab Minority Legal Center, earlier this month, calling on the government to provide coronavirus testing to residents in the Shuafat refugee camp and Kufr Aqab, in the central West Bank district of Jerusalem.

In its petition, Adalah attorney and co-author of the petition Myssana Morany said the organisation “gave the government two options: either set up temporary or drive-in testing facilities in the communities themselves or provide testing kits and the appropriate equipment to the existing health facilities in Shuafat and Kufr Aqab.”

It also warned that these neighbourhoods have very dense populations and infrastructure is very poor, which puts residents at an increased risk of the spread of the coronavirus.

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The organisation demanded testing centres or mobile testing centres for residents; training for local clinics in these neighborhoods to conduct the tests; and other remedies that would make virus detection tests accessible, reported Wafa news agency.

Following Israel’s announcement to open health clinics and coronavirus testing centres, the Adalah attorneys said in a statement, “Despite the delay and the possibility that these measures to open health clinics and coronavirus testing centers come too late, Israel’s commitment to fulfilling some of our demands is an important step.”

“However, it is not enough. We will certainly monitor the implementation of these commitments, and we look forward to the rest of our demands being met in order to ensure the health of the Palestinian population in these areas of East Jerusalem.”

Mahmoud Al-Sheikh, head of Shuafat’s local council, said the camp’s residents are routinely neglected by both Palestinian and Israeli authorities, despite the fact that 70 per cent of them have Jerusalem IDs and pay municipality and national health insurance taxes.

He added Adalah remains extremely concerned that Israel’s actions are coming too late, especially given that Israeli authorities had not examined the extent of the spread of the virus until today in Kufr Aqab, Shuafat refugee camp and the adjacent neighbourhoods.

“In the absence of coronavirus testing over the past month and a half, Israel does not have the slightest idea about the extent of the virus’ spread in these Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem behind the Separation Wall. There is an urgent need for additional measures,” said Adalah attorneys Suhad Bishara and Myssana Morany.

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