Officials in Jerusalem are reportedly enraged over accusations by the Palestinian Authority that the “occupation state” – a reference to Israel’s civilian and military presence in the West Bank – is responsible for spreading coronavirus in and thus “polluting” the contested territory. According to various reports, upwards of 75% of the 250-plus confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the West Bank have been traced to Palestinian workers who had returned from Israel. On Monday, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh claimed that some 20,000 Palestinian laborers currently residing in Israel were not being properly screened or tested for the virus prior to returning home during the seven-day Passover holiday that ends Wednesday night. He added that Palestinians had been entering and exiting the West Bank through Israeli-operated checkpoints and “unofficial crossings” despite the borders having supposedly been sealed last month in a bid to curb the contagion. A PA government spokesman similarly accused Israelis of not only “exporting” the virus to the West Bank, but also of being “agents” of the pathogen. Israeli leaders have responded by threatening to reduce bilateral cooperation unless the “incitement” emanating from Ramallah ends. The spat comes as health officials raised Israel’s confirmed diagnoses of COVID-19 to nearly 12,000. Meanwhile, the Israeli cabinet has green-lighted a 36-hour general nationwide lockdown that is set to begin on Tuesday at 5 pm local time.
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