PA urges Palestinian workers to return to West Bank as Israel’s virus cases grow
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PA urges Palestinian workers to return to West Bank as Israel’s virus cases grow

Palestinian Authority PM says laborers would be ‘protected’ by going home, since Israel set to announce further restrictions; all who return must self-isolate

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinian workers wait to cross through a checkpoint in Bethlehem, June 2, 2013 (Neal Badache/FLASH90)
Palestinian workers wait to cross through a checkpoint in Bethlehem, June 2, 2013 (Neal Badache/FLASH90)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called on Palestinian workers in Israel to return to the West Bank even though Israel agreed last week to allow them to stay in the territory for one to two months.

“In light of the dangerous, successive developments in Israel and expected measures banning movement, we call on all Palestinian laborers to return to their homes,” Shtayyeh wrote on Facebook, adding that doing so would “protect them and preserve their well-being.”

Israel was expected to announce imminently new measures further restricting movement in its cities and towns as the number of people infected with coronavirus continued to balloon.

As of Tuesday evening, nearly 2,000 people in Israel had been diagnosed with coronavirus and the country confirmed its third death from the virus.

Shtayyeh said that all workers who return to the West Bank would be required to self-isolate in their homes for two weeks, adding that anyone who shows symptoms of the virus should contact their nearest medical center.

According to PA Labor Minister Nasr Abu Jish, some 40,000 Palestinian workers were planning to spend the next one to two months in Israel.

Israeli authorities agreed last week to allow Palestinians working in “essential sectors” in Israel to spend that period in the country, with their employers finding a place for them to stay.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh announcing a series of measures, which he said aim to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in Ramallah on March 22, 2020. (Credit: Wafa)

Palestinians work in various fields in Israel, such as construction, agriculture, health, among others.

They bring hundreds of millions of shekels into the Palestinian economy every month.

PA government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem on Tuesday blasted the poor living conditions that some Israeli employers have provided their Palestinian employees, calling them “sleeping arrangements not appropriate for humans.”

The Kan public broadcaster reported last Thursday that some employers gave their workers inadequate and sparse accommodations. Others, however, provided their employees with hotel rooms and unfinished apartments.

Milhem on Tuesday accused Israel of “dumping” an ill Palestinian worker — who he said had been suspected of carrying coronavirus — at a checkpoint in the central West Bank on Monday.

Shtayyeh also called on Palestinian workers who return to the West Bank to follow his government’s directives aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, adding that anyone who violates them would be held legally accountable.

On Sunday, he announced drastic measures significantly restricting freedom of movement in the West Bank.

He said that all Palestinians would be required to stay in their homes unless they were going to supermarkets and health institutions, among a handful of other locations.

Palestinian authorities have so far said 60 people in the West Bank had tested positive for the virus, including 16 who have recovered.

Since last Thursday, Israel, in coordination with the PA, has put the West Bank under closure, barring the overwhelming majority of Palestinians from crossing into the country.

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