New curbs in West Bank as first Gaza virus cases confirmed

This picture taken on March 22, 2020 shows a view of vehicles crowding in a street in the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank, as shoppers prepare to stock up ahead of a "mandatory quarantine" that was announced by the Palestinian Authority to take effect from later in the evening as part of measures against the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (AFP)
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Updated 23 March 2020

New curbs in West Bank as first Gaza virus cases confirmed

  • An Israeli blockade, supported by Egypt, has restricted cross-border movement for years, amid security concerns following the militant Hamas movement’s takeover of Gaza in 2007

GAZA: The densely populated Gaza Strip reported its first coronavirus cases, and stay-at-home orders were announced in the occupied West Bank on Sunday as Palestinian health officials tried to limit contagion.
Two Palestinian men, one aged 79 and the other 63, tested positive after returning from Pakistan via Egypt late on Sunday.
Officials said the two patients, initially reported by authorities in Gaza to be in their 30s, were in stable condition in a quarantine area in the border town of Rafah.
“Thank God, the circle of contact wasn’t big,” said Salama Marouf, chairman of the Gaza government media office.
All those who had been in contact with the two men had also been quarantined, he said.
Schools, public markets and event halls have all been shut in Gaza over the past two weeks.
Religious authorities in Gaza and the West Bank urged people to pray at home, rather than in mosques, and not to hold traditional mourning gatherings at relatives’ homes in the event of fatalities.
The Palestinian Health Ministry listed 59 confirmed coronavirus cases in the West Bank, while Israel had 945 confirmed cases and one death.
Gaza’s 375 sq km are home to around 2 million Palestinians. Health experts say infection could spread fast among people living so close together, especially as medical supplies are scarce.

BACKGROUND

The Palestinian Health Ministry listed 59 confirmed coronavirus cases in the West Bank, while Israel had 945 confirmed cases and one death.

An Israeli blockade, supported by Egypt, has restricted cross-border movement for years, amid security concerns following the militant Hamas movement’s takeover of Gaza in 2007.
In the West Bank, the Palestinian government ordered people to stay home for two weeks to try to slow the spread of the virus.
Medical personnel, pharmacists, grocers and bakers were exempted. A Palestinian official said people would be allowed to shop for food.
On Saturday, Israeli authorities said they were closing borders with Gaza and the West Bank to commercial traffic, though some patients and humanitarian staff could cross.
People entering Gaza via Rafah or Israel’s Erez crossing since March 15 have been quarantined at designated facilities, the World Health Organization said, putting the number of those in isolation at 1,287. Another 2,017 are in home quarantine.
In the West Bank, more than 9,900 people were in quarantine at home or in other facilities.


Iraq PM pays respects to Hisham Al-Hashemi's family, calls him ‘hero’

Updated 22 min 13 sec ago

Iraq PM pays respects to Hisham Al-Hashemi's family, calls him ‘hero’

  • Kadhimi paid his respects to the family, calling Hashemi — a personal friend and adviser — a “hero”
  • “This behavior is not Iraqi. Iraqis don’t kill Iraqis,” he said

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi paid his respects on Wednesday to the family of slain scholar and government adviser Hisham Al-Hashemi, pledging to “avenge” his death.
Hashemi, 47, was a specialist in extremist movements and had developed a vast network of top decision makers, armed groups and rival parties, often mediating among them.
He was shot dead outside his Baghdad home on Monday night by gunmen on motorcycles, leaving behind a wife, three sons and a daughter.
On Wednesday, Kadhimi paid his respects to the family, calling Hashemi — a personal friend and adviser — a “hero.”
“Those afraid of a word can only be described as cowards. Hisham did nothing but try to help Iraqis through his words,” said Kadhimi, hugging the deceased’s tearful three sons Issa, Moussa and Ahmed.
Their names translate in Arabic to Jesus, Moses and another name for the Prophet Muhammad.
The three boys had rushed outside their home on Monday after hearing gunshots and helped neighbors pull their father’s bullet-riddled body from his car.
“This behavior is not Iraqi. Iraqis don’t kill Iraqis,” Kadhimi said.
“I will avenge him, and God willing his killers will not go free. I am your brother, and Issa, Moussa and Ahmed are my children,” the premier told Hashemi’s widow.
“This is my duty and the state’s duty,” he added.
Hashemi was a renowned researcher on Daesh and had more recently become outspoken against rogue armed actors in Iraq.
He was no stranger to intimidation efforts, but those close to him told AFP he had received more serious threats from Iran-backed groups in recent weeks.
Experts have voiced fear that Hashemi’s killing would usher in a dark era in which prominent voices critical of political parties and armed groups would be violently silenced.
Already, there has been no accountability for more than 550 people killed in protest-related violence since October, when mass rallies slammed Iraq’s government as corrupt, inept and beholden to neighboring Iran.
Among them are around two dozen activists who were shot dead, often by masked assailants on motorcycles.