GAZA CITY: The arrival of the coronavirus in the Palestinian territories and Israel has imposed calm between the two, despite tensions since the beginning of the year.
The High Commission for the Great March of Return announced the cancelation of activities that were scheduled for March 30 along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, fearing an outbreak of the virus among demonstrators and in compliance with instructions to prevent gatherings.
“In order to preserve the safety of the masses, it was decided to hold a number of activities on Land Day and the second anniversary of the launch of the March of Return that do not involve gatherings,” said Khaled Al-Batsh, a leader in the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine and head of the commission.
Al-Batsh called on protesters to ring church bells and shout the Takbir from mosques and homes in all Palestinian cities after ther Maghrib prayer call on Monday.
Since the beginning of 2020, the Gaza Strip has witnessed repeated instances of military escalation between Palestinian factions and Israel.
The last and most dangerous of these was on Feb. 23, after the Israeli army killed an Islamic Jihad activist and dragged his body by a military bulldozer on the security fence in the town of Khuza’a, southeast of the Strip.
In response to this incident, the Al-Quds Brigades, the military arm of the Islamic Jihad, along with other factions, launched missiles at Israeli towns, which Israel met with raids targeting the Gaza Strip.
After the announcement from the High Commission canceling the activities of March 30, the Gaza Strip witnessed a notable return to incendiary balloons and rocket fire aimed at Israeli towns.
According to multiple Palestinian statements, the objective of launching balloons was to pressure Israel to ease the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip about 14 years ago.
Israel did not take exceptional measures to ease the siege, however, and the use of balloons and missiles has disappeared since the last round of escalation.
Fear of the spread of this virus has made Gaza more cautious
Mukhaimer Abu Sa’da, Professor of political science
Mukhaimer Abu Sa’da, professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, said that the pandemic was a major cause of the calm on the Gaza front with Israel.
“Fear of the spread of this virus has made Gaza more cautious,” Abu Sa’ada told Arab News.
According to the newspaper Haaretz, Israel understands that “Gaza is more sensitive to the spread of pandemics.”
The Gaza Strip recorded nine confirmed cases of COVID-19, which prompted the Hamas-led government to impose the closure of mosques, universities and schools, and place a ban on public gatherings.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza has quarantined hundreds of returning Palestinians through the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, while calling on residents to stay in their homes and not go out except for necessity.
Political columnist Hani Habib told Arab News: “The outbreak of the virus has meant that it is in the interests of both parties to continue a cease-fire. The burdens that Israel will have to bear as an occupying power is an additional motivator to control the spread of the pandemic in the Gaza Strip.”
It is not possible to estimate how Gaza will fare in light of the outbreak, especially as its economic effects could have severe negative repercussions on the already fragile territory.