Skip to main content

As coronavirus spreads to Gaza, Israel can offer little

The nightmare scenario of the coronavirus reaching the Gaza Strip has become a reality, with Israel and Palestinians fearing a mega-catastrophe in the most crowded spot on earth.
RAFAH, GAZA â MARCH 26: Members of Saraya al-Quds, armed wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, carry out disinfection works as a preventive measure against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Rafah, Gaza on March 26, 2020. (Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The idea of the coronavirus striking the battered and impoverished Gaza Strip and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake was once considered a nightmare scenario. Now, it is starting to look real. On March 26, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Gaza rose to nine, but authorities in Israel and the Gaza Strip are concerned that this is not the real number. The problem is that very few people have been tested, and even if testing takes place, the means available to protect oneself in Gaza are sparse at best.

One Israeli source involved in what has been happening in Gaza describes how the virus-carriers got infected. It all started about two weeks ago, when two Palestinians arrived in Gaza after spending time in Pakistan and Cairo. They arrived at the border crossing with Egypt by bus, together with many other Gazans, and when they crossed over into the Gaza Strip, they were told that they needed to be quarantined. They agreed, but asked for a chance to say hello to their families first. Five Hamas police officers went with them and watched as they hugged and embraced their family members without any protection whatsoever. The travelers were then taken to a quarantine facility. It has since been learned that the five police officers who accompanied them were found to have the coronavirus. What is not yet known is the status of everyone else they came into contact with over the last few days.

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 for annual access.