Skip to main content

Can blockade shield Gaza Strip from epidemic?

The Israeli security system is trying to head off a nightmare as the coronavirus menaces the uniquely vulnerable Gaza Strip.
A Palestinian worker wearing a mask sanitizes the hands of a customer amid coronavirus precautions, in a supermarket in Gaza City March 8, 2020. Picture taken March 8, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem - RC2EGF9PKI3K

Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) sent about 200 coronavirus testing kits to the Gaza Strip March 13. The kits crossed via the Erez passage under the orders of Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, who now seems to understand that Israel is responsible for Gaza, even if he prefers not to recognize that reality publicly. The office of COGAT head Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon announced, “Viruses and illnesses have no borders — therefore, it is in Israel’s best interests to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the Gaza Strip and its outbreak in the territories of Judea and Samaria. This is in Israel’s interests because such an outbreak may well endanger the health of the residents of State of Israel as well.”

One kit for every 10,000 residents seems a symbolic gesture. We can assume that it was intended to pressure Hamas to take action to prevent a catastrophe in the Strip, which is also in Israel's interests. Should the virus explode in the Strip, it will certainly spread to Israel. The Gaza Strip is one of the most crowded and poverty-stricken places in the world and an outbreak there could be deadly. Its health system is already collapsing even without the coronavirus. In light of the living conditions in the Strip, which has been under a strict closure for 13 years, it is doubtful that quarantine measures could be imposed.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.