In response to a renewed COVID-19 outbreak in Jerusalem, which now appears to be more severe than the first wave, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – has taken a series of new legal actions to compel Israeli authorities to protect the health of Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem.
High Incidence of Coronavirus Infections among Palestinians
In an alarming trend, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem comprise some 50 percent of the 4,000 verified new COVID-19 patients in the city, according to recent data from Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality. Forty-one percent of East Jerusalem Palestinians recently tested for COVID-19 have been verified as infected; this is more than 11 times the Israeli rate.
According to Adalah, the COVID-19 testing centers that were opened in Shuafat refugee camp and Kufr Aqab during the first wave of the outbreak, following Adalah’s Israeli Supreme Court petition, were shut down after several weeks and never reopened. However, there are now more than 300 verified COVID-19 patients in these two neighborhoods alone, according to data from the Jerusalem Municipality. Adalah sent an urgent letter to the director-general of the Israeli Health Ministry on August 16 demanding that it reopen COVID-19 test sites for Palestinians living in these neighborhoods.
Inadequate Water Supply Infrastructure for 70,000 Residents
In addition, due to poor infrastructure and limits on the quantities of water sold from Israel’s Mekorot national water carrier, the Ramallah-Al Quds company has been supplying water to Palestinian residents of Kufr Aqab and the surrounding East Jerusalem neighborhoods. This company, which operated in these areas even prior to the 1967 Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, can only supply water to these areas three days a week. The 70,000 Palestinian residents living in these neighborhoods are therefore forced to store water under unsupervised conditions, which do not allow the implementation of standards recommended by the World Health Organization guidelines for combating the spread of COVID-19. Adalah sent a letter to Israeli authorities on August 16 calling on them to ensure a regular supply of water to the residents of Kufr Aqab and surrounding neighborhoods, as mandated by law.
Renewed and Accelerated Home Demolitions by Israel
Adalah sent an urgent letter on August 17 demanding Israel freeze its home demolition policy after recent weeks have seen an acceleration in demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. Israel had temporarily suspended demolitions during the first wave of COVID-19 but, according to a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Territories (OCHA), Israel demolished 31 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem in July and August 2020 alone – leaving about 96 people homeless. With the onset of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020, Israeli authorities had modified their planning and construction “enforcement policy” during the new state of emergency, suspending most demolitions of residential buildings and reducing friction with the Palestinian population. However, Israeli demolitions of Arab homes have now been aggressively renewed despite a significantly more severe second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic threatening the residents of Palestinian East Jerusalem.