The EU must pressure Israel to lift all restrictions that hamper effective responses to the Covid-19 pandemic in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Palestine, MEP Manu Pineda, has warned. Several organisations have warned of an impending humanitarian disaster.

Pineda has called on the EU to suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which grants Israel privileged access to EU programmes and unprecedented sectoral coordination and integration, as leverage to pressure Israel to respect its obligations under international law:

“We know that simply asking Israel to respect international law will fall on deaf ears. The EU must use conditionality to force Israeli compliance with its obligations and this means suspending the EU-Israel Association Agreement. For generations, Palestinians have lived under a permanent humanitarian crisis created by Israel. The Covid-19 pandemic threatens to make an already desperate situation worse,” Pineda said.

Israel has continued military incursions into Palestinian towns and night raids of family homes, running arrest campaigns including of minors. The Israeli army has also continued demolition of Palestinian homes and means of livelihood, displacing dozens of families at a time when basic shelter is a question of life and death.

“With Covid-19 cases reported in military prisons where Palestinians are held, it becomes imperative for Israel to release all political prisoners including the almost 200 Palestinian children it holds under degrading conditions. Israel’s routine demolition of Palestinian homes is grotesque. Continuing to do so during the Covid-19 pandemic shows the extent Israel is prepared to go to dehumanise Palestinians,” Pineda continued.

In blockaded Gaza, which the UN has declared “unliveable”, there are fears this latest crisis may tip it to a full-blown economic collapse. Mass coronavirus infections may spell a catastrophe, with the WHO saying that Gaza has just 50-60 ventilators for adults, and would not be able to handle hundreds of cases.

“The world can no longer ignore Gaza’s plight. Israel’s blockade is illegal and a form of collective punishment. Israel’s prohibition of so-called dual-use items from entering Gaza deprives hospitals of life saving medical equipment, this is criminal! Israel must lift the blockade now.

“The EU must not wait for the Covid-19 pandemic to claim a massive death toll in Gaza. The EU has a legal and moral responsibility to spare no effort to force Israel to lift the blockade or to scale-back its relations with Israel otherwise. Given the immense material needs on the ground, the EU must increase its financial support for UNRWA and other humanitarian efforts,” Pineda concluded.

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