RNA - To limit the spread of the virus within the Gaza Strip, authorities have barred public events and called on citizens to stay home. The COVID-19 outbreak has overwhelmed the city’s healthcare system. Gerald Rockenschaub, the head of the WHO Palestine office says Gazans only have 16 intensive care unit beds. Abdel Nasser Soboh, the head of WHO’s Gaza office, also says healthcare facilities in Gaza have 62 oxygen ventilators and to make matters worse, they are already being used on patients with other conditions.
In addition to the Israeli siege, which slows the imports of medical supplies even though they are supposed to enter without restrictions, stifling power restrictions and the destruction of bombing campaigns all have damaged Gaza’s healthcare infrastructure. Compounded by the emigration of healthcare workers in the face of all sorts of conflicts and instabilities, Gaza is grossly underequipped and understaffed in the face of this health crisis.
The WHO has delivered protective gear for healthcare workers and lab testing supplies to support Gaza’s response efforts. In addition, it is providing technical support for the establishment of a field hospital at the Rafah Crossing that will include a 38-bed treatment facility only.
Let’s face it. All this and more are not enough to alleviate the suffering of Gazans who have been under Israeli’s siege for so many years. Infections cases are growing and substantial capacity gaps still need to be addressed including the procurement of essential medical supplies and equipment - including lab testing kits.
The time is now for the UN and the international civil society to pressure Israel to lift its inhumane blockade on the world’s largest open-air prison. Gaza has been in a state of siege and collective punishment since 2007.
It is important to remember that long before the global pandemic, this densely populated place was already suffering from food and medicine shortages, as well international aid and materials to rebuild its shattered communities after so many wars. Palestinian patients were denied permits to leave the strip for even chemotherapy.
The coronavirus outbreak should be a wakeup call for the international community. The irony is that even when the UN Security Council or the UN Human Rights Council decides to act and issue resolutions critical of Israel’s blockade, the United States government comes to the rescue.
This is obvious at the material level, as measured by flow of American capital and armaments, joint military operations, and diplomatic support. This special relationship appears at the ideological level as well: Western governments never arrest or prosecute Israeli leaders for committing war crimes in Gaza.
Under its Charter, the International Criminal Court has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The ICC is intended to complement existing national judicial systems, yet evidently, it has become an instrument for the US to further its political will in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
According to Fars News Agency, the great soul of this world is just and the UN should bear the greatest burden. International organizations and human rights treaty bodies like the ICC and the UN human Rights Council must prove they are founded on justice.
Before the coronavirus outbreak betrays their weakness and many patients die in Gaza, these organizations must fulfil their duties and prevent the regime in Tel Aviv from being an exception to international law any more. Such a progressive and humane policy can make a world of difference to many Palestinian patients who are still living under the brutal siege and occupation of Israel.