According to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett ordered testing in Gaza to stop after the initiative was denied approval by the Israeli government on Wednesday.
The outlet noted the project was halted due to heavy friction between the IDF and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which were supposed to jointly manage testing in the Gaza Strip by exporting the tests to Israel for processing.
Israel has allowed just five test kits donated by the World Health Organization into Gaza, to which Israel controls nearly all access. The kits allow just 480 Palestinians to be tested out of a population of 2 million, Reuters reported.
“We began testing immediately after receiving the kits late [Sunday] night,” Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra told Reuters on April 13. “We need to carry out these tests all the time and therefore, we are in need of thousands of testing kits.”
Israel’s state-owned Tazpit News Agency reported last week that “an advanced medical device used for the detection of Coronavirus” had been brought from “an unnamed Muslim country” to be set up at Shifa Hospital, the largest medical facility in Gaza, although to call it a medical facility is something of an overstatement, given the 14-year-long siege of Gaza by Israel. It’s also unclear how many tests the machine can process per day, or if they are compatible with tests presently being used in Gaza.
According to the group Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, hospitals in the Gaza Strip have just 70 intensive care unit beds and a dire shortage of ventilators and personal protective equipment.
“We are more concerned now than we have been by the Israeli military attacks over the past 20 years,” Dr. Abdullatif al-Haj, an official in Gaza’s Ministry of Health, told Al-Monitor, a Washington, DC-based publication late last month. “Our already fragile health system cannot survive.”
With more than 600 people already quarantined and 15 diagnosed with the highly infectious respiratory illness, the governing Hamas party is worried about the potential for catastrophe.
“Israel will be the one that bears responsibility for an outbreak of the virus in the Gaza Strip; and therefore it must make it easier for shipments of aid to arrive and it is the one who needs to send these medical means,” said Khalil al-Hayya, the deputy Hamas leader in Gaza, according to the Times of Israel. The paper also noted that Hamas had proposed a prisoner exchange in order to secure access to medical supplies for containing the outbreak.
In Israel there have been nearly 15,000 COVID-19 cases detected, including 189 deaths, and in the Palestinian West Bank there have been 335 detected cases, including two deaths.
On Wednesday, the Israeli government approved lockdowns for Israeli Independence Day, which is on April 29, and authorities at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem canceled prayers on Thursday, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Haaretz reported.