UN Official: Israel is Legally Responsible for Safety of Palestinians

Israeli soldiers wearing protective masks in the occupied West Bank. (Photo: via Twitter)

Israel is legally responsible for providing health services to ensure the safety of Palestinians in the occupied territories during the fight against the coronavirus, a senior United Nations official has announced.

“The legal duty, anchored in Article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, requires that Israel, the occupying power, must ensure that all the necessary preventive means available to it are utilized to ‘combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics,’” according to UN special rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory, Michael Lynk.

Lynk added:

“At the heart of the efforts to contain and roll back this pandemic by Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas must apply an approach centered on human rights.”

He continued:

“The right to dignity requires that all persons under their authority should enjoy equality of access to health services and equality of treatment.”

In a statement that Lynk issued on Thursday, he expressed his concerns that initial publications to increase awareness about the spread of COVID-19 issued by the Israeli Ministry of Health were almost exclusively in Hebrew.

This means that the Palestinians, whether in Israel or in the occupied territories, do not benefit from these important publications.

The special rapporteur has previously noted that Israel is in “profound breach” of its international obligations with regards to the right to healthcare of Palestinians living under occupation.

Regarding his concerns on Gaza, he expressed:

“I am particularly worried about the potential impact of COVID-19 on Gaza. Its health care system was collapsing even before the pandemic. Its stocks of essential drugs are chronically low.”

Gaza, with a population of 2 million, has been under a hermetic Israeli siege since 2006, when the Palestinian group Hamas won the democratic legislative elections in occupied Palestine. Since then, Israel has carried out numerous bombing campaigns and several major wars, that resulted in the death of thousands of people. 

“The truth is, no amount of ‘preparedness’ in Gaza – or, frankly, anywhere in occupied Palestine – can stop the spread of the Coronavirus,” wrote Palestinian journalist and editor of The Palestine Chronicle, Ramzy Baroud.

“What is needed is a fundamental and structural change that would emancipate the Palestinian healthcare system from the horrific impact of the Israeli occupation and the Israeli government’s policies of perpetual siege and politically-imposed ‘quarantines’ – also known as apartheid,” Baroud added.

(Palestine Chronicle, MEMO, Social Media)

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