Israeli soldiers conducting coronavirus tests in the Gaza Strip have been ordered to stop by Defence Minister Naftali Bennett due to coordination issues, an Israeli newspaper has reported. According to Maariv, the Israeli government cancelled the initiative and claimed that Bennett himself was not aware of the army initiative due to a “lack of communication”.
The initiative lasted for two days and only 100 samples were tested at one of the army’s bases on the fringe of the besieged Gaza Strip. Soldiers had announced last week that they would carry out 50 coronavirus tests per day on samples from the Gaza Strip at the army laboratory in Tzrifin. The lab is also conducting tests for soldiers suspected of having the deadly virus. As of 15 April, the total number of infections in Gaza stood at 13.
The head of the Israeli army’s Southern Command, Major General Eyal Zamir, was appointed to develop a plan to run coronavirus testing and offer humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank. Under the plan, Israeli soldiers would carry out the testing, and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) would take the samples through the Erez Crossing to Tzrifin. However, coordination between these two bodies broke down somewhere in the process, and the project was halted.
Experts have warned that an outbreak of coronavirus in the tiny territory containing some 2 million people, many of whom live in crowded refugee camps, would present a massive challenge to Gaza’s healthcare sector.