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Palestinians fear outbreak in Jerusalem’s ‘no man’s land’


Palestinians fear outbreak in Jerusalem’s ‘no man’s land’

JERUSALEM — As the coronavirus pandemic gathered strength last month, community leaders in a Palestinian neighborhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem tried to impose lockdown and quarantine measures to protect residents. The problem: there were no police to enforce the measures. Kufr Aqab is within the Israeli-drawn municipal boundary of Jerusalem, which Israel views as…

Palestinians fear outbreak in Jerusalem’s ‘no man’s land’

As the coronavirus pandemic collected strength last month, neighborhood leaders in a Palestinian area on the borders of Jerusalem tried to impose lockdown and quarantine steps to secure residents.

The problem: there were no cops to implement the measures.

Kufr Aqab is within the Israeli-drawn municipal boundary of Jerusalem, which Israel views as its unified capital. It is for that reason off-limits to the Palestinian Authority, which is headquartered in the neighboring city of Ramallah and governs parts of the occupied West Bank.

However the neighborhood is on the opposite side of the separation barrier Israel integrated in the mid-2000 s, so the Israeli police don’t go there either.

” This is no guy’s land,” stated Mayor Raed Hamdan.

When the community council established checkpoints to limit motion in or out, it had to depend on regional volunteers. When it purchased organisations to close and individuals to stay at home, they refused.

Now the town has at least 21 validated coronavirus cases, according to Sameh Abu Rumaila, the head of a local health committee that, like everything else, is run by volunteers. The committee approximates that another 500 people in the densely inhabited neighborhood have actually touched with those who were infected, but is powerless to isolate them.

” Nobody can control those individuals and put them into quarantine,” he stated. The majority of have Jerusalem residency, enabling them to take a trip basically easily in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Israel. Rumaila states the town is a “ticking bomb.”

The infection causes mild to moderate flu-like symptoms in the majority of patients, who recuperate within a few weeks. But it is highly infectious and can cause serious illness or death, especially in older people or those with underlying health issues.

Israel has actually reported more than 16,200 cases and at least 235 deaths, while the Palestinian Authority has reported more than 330 cases and 2 fatalities. Both imposed heavy constraints a number of weeks ago to contain the outbreak, and are now beginning to raise them as the rate of new infections slows.

However an estimated 120,000 people live in Kufr Aqab and other likewise ungoverned areas on the outskirts of the city. That might provide rise to brand-new break outs.

Nadav Matzner, the deputy spokesman for Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency service, said it established a testing center at a checkpoint near Kufr Aqab on April 23 and has brought out more than 160 tests. He stated it normally does not run beyond the barrier however has actually sent out medics who are from those communities inside to carry out testing.

Officials from the Jerusalem municipality did not react to multiple ask for remark.

Haneen, an 18- year-old resident, evaluated positive on April 19, along with her mother and four siblings. Her mom and among her sisters have been hospitalized, while the others were quarantined in a hotel in Ramallah. She declined to give her surname out of personal privacy issues.

Haneen and the sister who is hospitalized work inside Israel, however they were home throughout the two-week-long Passover holiday in early April, when much of Israel was closed down. They think they were infected in Kufr Aqab.

” The town is open, all the shops are open, and we all head out and purchase from the stores and contact other individuals,” she stated. “There are no police to impose law and order, just local volunteers obstructing the roads to Ramallah and Jerusalem.”

” They let you pass if you argue with them,” she stated.

The volunteers have factor to be wary. In March, an argument at a checkpoint near Kufr Aqab caused an exchange of shooting. Israel permitted Palestinian security forces to go into and restore order, but then they had to withdraw.

Israel caught east Jerusalem in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move not acknowledged internationally. It unilaterally expanded the city’s borders to take in large tracts of land– where it later developed Jewish settlements– in addition to areas like Kufr Aqab, which at the time were small Palestinian towns.

The Palestinians, who desire east Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state, see the separation barrier as part of a larger strategy to cut them off from the city and alter its demographics.

Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher for Ir Amim, an Israeli rights group focused on Jerusalem, stated Israel seems preparing to redraw the city’s limits to leave out Kufr Aqab and other peripheral communities. That would decrease Jerusalem’s Palestinian population by more than a third, from around 330,000 to just 200,000

President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, which Israel has actually excitedly welcomed and the Palestinians have actually turned down, would also get rid of those neighborhoods from Jerusalem.

” Israel developed the separation barrier in a manner that detaches Kufr Aqab, with an explicit objective to eliminate Palestinians from Jerusalem,” he stated.

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Israel states the barrier was integrated in response to a wave of Palestinian suicide battles and other attacks throughout the 2000-2005 uprising and that it’s necessary for Israel’s security.

Kufr Aqab and other neighboring communities have actually been pestered by a lack of law and order considering that the barrier increased. Lawbreaker gangs take pleasure in free reign, and the lax enforcement of building regulations has led to the rapid construction of house towers– some up to 18 stories high– that many fear are unsafe.

” We reside in fantastic stress and anxiety here,” Naela Namour, a housewife and mother of two, said. Individuals in the apartment towers load into elevators, their kids play together in little uninhabited lots and the local markets are as busy as ever.

” There are no guidelines,” she stated. “Individuals move, work, purchase and offer with no restrictions.”


Daraghmeh reported from Ramallah, West Bank.

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