PA Urges Israel to Test Workers Returning en Masse to West Bank
The Palestinian Authority is urging Israel to test Palestinian workers for the coronavirus before tens of thousands of them return to the West Bank ahead of or during next week’s Passover holiday. PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh spoke by phone with the head of the World Health Organization’s mission to the Palestinians and asked him to convey the request to Jerusalem. Israel previously shuttered border crossings with the West Bank in a bid to contain the outbreak, but first permitted tens of thousands of Palestinian workers in “essential sectors” to enter and spend at least four weeks in the country. It is estimated that 35,000 to 50,000 Palestinians are currently in Israel and intend to return to the West Bank. Thus far, dozens of Palestinian laborers who work in Israeli-controlled territory have tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to PA-administered areas. Earlier this week, a senior Israeli health official told local media that the government was seriously considering “medically annex[ing]” portions of the West Bank in order to curb the spread of contagion. Ramallah last month imposed a state of emergency in the West Bank and has to date reported over 100 cases of COVID-19.