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Raji Sourani: Gaza Faces COVID Crisis as Israel Withholds Vaccines While Imposing Inhumane Blockade

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The World Health Organization estimates there have been 51,312 confirmed cases and 522 deaths from COVID-19 in Gaza since reporting began in July 2020, and the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees warns the Gaza Strip’s health system could collapse if the number of cases continues to rise. We get an update from Raji Sourani, human rights lawyer and director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, on how Gaza has been impacted by COVID-19 as an ongoing blockade has destroyed its health infrastructure. “Our equipment is unable to deal with the emerging situation,” Sourani says.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Raji, we have to leave in a minute, but I wanted to ask you about the situation of COVID in Gaza right now. According to the World Health Organization, there have been over 51,000 confirmed cases, 522 deaths from COVID since reporting began in July 2020. That’s in Gaza alone. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees has warned Gaza Strip’s health system could collapse if the number of cases continue to rise. We just covered what was happening in the West Bank, with Mustafa Barghouti, who had COVID, not being able to get vaccines. What’s the situation in Gaza?

RAJI SOURANI: We are like any other part of the world, having this pandemic. And it was easy, I mean, to come to Gaza. We have it. There is quite a lot of people who are victim of this pandemic.

But what Gaza unique at, that Gaza an occupied place, Gaza subject to criminal, illegal, inhumane blockade, no movement for goods or individuals. Accordingly, we are having completely destroyed health infrastructure, our hospitals in very bad conditions, our equipments unable to deal with the emerging situation. The Israelis are not allowing, ’til this moment, the proper equipments and medicine to come to Gaza. This is what makes Gaza unique.

That’s why the occupation should be held responsible — and they are responsible — on the pandemic, especially, Amy, in the Gaza Strip as an occupying force. They should allow, without any condition, the equipments and the medicine to come through. And they are responsible, as well, about the vaccine distribution to the occupied people of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. They are responsible, as well, on the welfare and the pandemic situation in the prisons. Palestinian prisoners are in very critical conditions. The Israeli prisoners took the vaccines, the Palestinians not. The Israeli people took the vaccine, and Palestinian not. Israel will be the first country in the world vaccine-free — sorry, pandemic-free. So, if Netanyahu talk about the anti-Semitic act, this is 100% racist behavior, unprecedented behavior. Israel occupying Occupied Palestinian Territories, and they are totally responsible, according to international law, precisely the Geneva Conventions, on the well-being of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

AMY GOODMAN: Raji Sourani —

RAJI SOURANI: And that’s what — yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you so much for being with us. And all health to you, human rights lawyer, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, and also to Katherine Gallagher, Center for Constitutional Rights and legal representative for Palestinian victims in front of the International Criminal Court.

When we come back, we’re going to look at the $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus package in the United States. We’re going to particularly look at the effect of the economic crisis on women. We’re going to talk with the woman who coined the term the “shecession.” Stay with us.

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