The duties of the occupying power in fighting COVID-19 under international law.
The laws of occupation continue to govern Israel’s policies and practices in the OPT during a pandemic or a health crisis, including the Hague Regulations and the Geneva Conventions.
Article 56(1) of the Fourth Geneva Convention (hereinafter GCIV) explains that ‘the occupying power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining, with the cooperation of national and local authorities, the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory, with particular reference to the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics. Medical personnel of all categories shall be allowed to carry out their duties.’
Likewise, Article 14(1) of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, the occupying power ‘has the duty to ensure the medical needs of the civilian population in occupied territory continue to be satisfied’.
Disregards for Palestinian detainees’ health, especially of the sick detainees, who have been denied from visiting the infirmary, is blatant violation of Israel’s obligation as an occupying power towards Palestinian detainees, including Article 91 of GCIV that requires the presence of an adequate infirmary in places of detention, in addition to separate spaces dedicated for people with diseases and Article 92 that obliges the occupying power to run medical inspections on a regular basis in order to detect contagious diseases.
Israel’s refusal to coordinate with the Government of Palestine shows that Israel is operating in bad faith and not in the best interest of the occupied people. The principle of good faith is a cornerstone principle of the laws of occupation. The principle requires Israel, to ‘restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country’ as required in Article 43 of the Hague Regulations.
Israel should guarntee Palestinian workers their right in accordance with Article 40 of the GCIV whereas; ‘protected persons compelled to work shall have the benefit of the same working conditions and of the same safeguards as national workers in particular as regards wages, hours of labour, clothing and equipment, previous training and compensation for occupational accidents and diseases’.
- Medical perosnnel, facilities, and transport: IOF demolished, confiscated and obstructed Palestinian initiatives to fight the pandemic by
shutting down first-aid community initiatives by and for Palestinians;
- IOF arrested volunteer health workers who were sanitizing and disinfecting the public facilities
in the Old City and seized their equipments. They also arrested and beat youth volunteers who were handing out brochures in the streets to spread awareness on the COVID-19 virus;
- Israel only provided only 200 testing kits to the almost 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank;
- Israel, continued to bar the GOP from providing health services or provide testing for residents of East Jerusalem.
- Israel continued to arbitrary arrest and detain Palestinians, where 357 Palestinians including 48 children were arrested in March alone; Israeli arbitrary measures in regards to Palestinian detainees include: denial of sanitary supplies, denial of family visits, denial of legal visits, and medical neglect; Israeli occupation authorities did not conduct any thorough tests on Palestinian detainees, nor are they providing them with essential hygiene and sanitization kits, or even face masks and gloves.
- Palestinian Workers:
- Israel, the occupying power, has been purposely smuggling Palestinian workers back into OPT by opening checkpoints at night through opening several wastewater tunnels thus risking the lives of millions of Palestinians.
- Settler violence:
- Over the last month, settler violence against Palestinians and their properties has increased by
78% comparing to the rest of the year;
- Between March 17 and 30, the UN reported at least 16 attacks by Israeli settlers resulted in 5 Palestinian injuries and extensive property damage’;
- Settler violence included the stoning of vehicles, vandalizing structures and physical assault, some 100 Palestinian-owned olive trees were uprooted, and tens others were drowned with sewage water. Also, surveillance cameras were damaged and stolen from a home and a school.
- House demolitions:
- The occupation forces demolished three seasonal homes of farmers who are residents of Jerusalem, in the village of ‘Ein a-Duyuk a-Tahta west of Jericho. Not to mention the demolition of the first-aid initiatives by Palestinians.