Following Adalah legal action, Israel to reopen COVID-19 testing centers for Palestinians in East J’lem

Adalah takes series of new legal actions to defend rights of East J’lem Palestinians in shadow of renewed outbreak; 50% of city’s new patients are Palestinians; Israel resumes demolitions of Palestinian homes after temporary halt during first wave of COVID-19.

Following urgent legal action taken by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel in coordination with the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem, Israeli authorities will reopen two COVID-19 testing centers in Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem that had been shut down just several weeks into the first wave of the pandemic. The two testing centers are slated to reopen today, 27 August 2020.


The COVID-19 testing centers that had been set up 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. But a second severe wave of the pandemic is currently impacting the city, and there are now more than 300 verified COVID-19 patients in these two neighborhoods alone, according to data from the Jerusalem Municipality.


On 16 August 2020, Adalah sent an urgent letter to the director general of the Israeli Health Ministry demanding that it reopen COVID-19 test sites for Palestinians living in these neighborhoods.


Palestinian residents in contact with Adalah’s legal team reported this morning that the two testing centers were slated to open today in East Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond Israel’s separation barrier.


In an email sent to Adalah later in the morning, the Clalit HMO confirmed that two COVID-19 testing sites would open in Kufr Aqab and the Shuafat refugee camp today and that they will serve all residents of these areas.


In addition to the letter demanding the reopening of the testing centers, Adalah took two other urgent legal actions this past week in response to the renewed COVID-19 outbreak in East Jerusalem:


Irregular water supply endangers health of Jerusalem’s Palestinians


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 has 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 Palestinians residents living in these neighborhoods are therefore forced to store water under unsupervised conditions which do not allow 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 16 August 2020 calling on them to ensure a regular supply of water to the residents of Kufr Aqab and surrounding neighborhoods, as mandated by law.


Israel resumes demolitions of Palestinian homes halted during pandemic’s first wave


Adalah sent an urgent letter on 17 August 2020 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 Palestinian homes have now been aggressively renewed despite a significantly more severe second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic threatening the residents of East Jerusalem.


Second wave of COVID-19 hits East Jerusalem hard


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 national rate.


The Jerusalem Municipality reported on 13 August 2020 that the number of newly-verified infections in East Jerusalem during the preceding 24 hour-period reached 188.


CLICK HERE to see the response from Clalit HMO announcing the opening of two COVID-19 test sites in East Jerusalem [Hebrew]