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Israel dreads coronavirus outbreak in Gaza

So far, the closure has protected the Gaza Strip from the coronavirus, but Israeli specialists estimate that a COVID-19 outbreak there is just a matter of time.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s announcement March 11 that the total closure of the Gaza Strip will be extended until the night of March 14 shows how deeply concerned Israel’s political and defense leadership is about an outbreak of the novel coronavirus there. The threat of COVID-19 reaching Gaza and sparking an extreme humanitarian health crisis is real. So far, there have been no reports of people in Gaza being infected by the coronavirus. This can be attributed to the territory’s isolation, which offers Gaza relative safety from the virus. The problem is that according to every assessment, it is only a matter of time before the first cases are identified there. Given current circumstances, it is doubtful that the flimsy infrastructure in the most densely populated region in the world would be able to contend with a dramatic crisis of such serious proportions.

The sensitive nature of the defense minister’s decision and its political and security volatility required coordination with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before it could be released. On one hand, this decision was intended to keep developments in Gaza under control. On the other hand, it was not intended to result in a total, long-term closure of the border crossings. Israel is worried that an economic catastrophe in Gaza would result in sheer chaos. After all, Gaza already suffers from widespread poverty and unemployment. It has teetered on the verge of economic collapse for years.

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