On July 21, Tuesday, Israeli armed forces demolished a Palestinian COVID-19 testing facility in Hebron in the south of occupied West Bank. The testing facility was doubling up as a quarantine center for Palestinians suspected of having contracted COVID-19. Construction at the drive-through facility was still in the process of being completed when the Israeli authorities carried out the demolition citing lack of Israeli construction permits.
The owner of the land and the testing facility told Turkish Anadolu Agency that prior to the demolition on Tuesday, construction was underway for the last three months. According to 35-year-old Maswadeh, the facility was being built in memory of his grandfather who recently died of COVID-19. The total cost of the construction so far is USD 250,000.
Maswadeh accused the Israeli authorities of deliberately conspiring to facilitate the spread of COVID-19 among Palestinians in Hebron. He added that the facility was being built to reduce pressure on hospitals in the area, which have already reached full capacity due to the rapid spread of the virus.
As per multiple media reports, Israeli authorities did not interfere or raise any objections while construction was taking place for the past several months. It was only after a significant portion of the facility had been completed that a military order was sent on July 12 asking the owner to stop all construction at the site.
It was reported that while carrying out the demolition, the Israeli personnel confiscated all testing and other medical equipment beforehand.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the occupied Palestinian territories of West Bank, Gaza and Eastern Jerusalem reached 10,923, with 67 deaths, on July 21.
Farid al-Atrash, a 44-year-old human rights lawyer and activist living in Hebron, also supported Maswadeh’s concerns, telling reporters that, “Israel in general makes the process for Palestinians to fight this virus more difficult.” He also alleged that such moves may be an Israeli tactic to pressure the Palestinian Authority (PA) to resume bureaucratic and administrative coordination with Israel. The PA had cut all ties with Israel recently after Israel announced the proposed annexation of large parts of the occupied West Bank, including all illegal Israeli settlements and the Jordan Valley.