As many as 58 Norwegian organizations and political parties have appealed to Foreign Minister Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide to urge Israel to end the Gaza Strip blockade amidst the coronavirus outbreak.
"While governments worldwide are making efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic and stabilize their economy, the Palestinian nation is at high risk, struggling under occupation and siege, hence, becoming more vulnerable to the pandemic," they said in a letter.
Israeli authorities, the letter said, had torn down 69 buildings, including seven water, hygiene and sanitation structures, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds since the first COVID-19 case in the territories was confirmed.
In particular, they cited a United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) report, indicating increased attacks and disproportionate use of violence by Israeli soldiers.
“Overcrowded areas and refugees camps in the West Bank and Gaza are especially vulnerable to the pandemic. For the two million people living in Gaza, the situation is catastrophic."
The letter said 13 years of Israeli siege and military operations in 2009, 2012 and 2014 have made Gaza uninhabitable.
Palestinians in Gaza, it said, are living with a weak public health sector, extreme poverty, high levels of unemployment, dysfunctional infrastructure, aid-dependency and terrible conditions to grow up in for children and youth.
“Under these critical circumstances, it is impossible for the Palestinian health sector to handle the pandemic," it added.
Health care in Gaza was on the brink of collapse even before the territory's hospitals received the first COVID-19 patients.
The Norwegian letter said restrictions set by the Israeli siege seriously impede the import of goods, trade, and economic activity as well as stable access to electricity and fuel.
It demanded the country’s foreign minister to take the lead in the international stage to end hostilities and the war crimes against Palestinians.
Recently, Norway called for more aid from the United Nations and non-governmental organizations in an attempt to assist Palestine with the struggling economy in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.
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