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Palestinian Municipal Volunteers Help in Fight against Coronavirus

Palestinian Municipal Volunteers Help in Fight against Coronavirus

Thursday, 9 April, 2020 - 08:45
Palestinian security roadblocks separate villages, camps and cities in Bethlehem to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Asharq Al-Awsat
Bethlehem - Kifah Zboun

Palestinian volunteers have set up semi-official roadblocks across vast territory in the rural areas of the West Bank in a rare initiative to help bolster the efforts of the authorities in fighting the novel coronavirus.

Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh had realized early on that the Palestinian Authority has no army and said it is counting on the people.

The PA has resorted to popular committees covering West Bank territory for many reasons, including that some areas are large, extend to nearby Israeli settlements and do not fall under PA jurisdiction.

As the number of those infected with the virus spikes in rural areas, mostly in Area C which comprises two thirds of the West Bank, emergency committees find themselves facing tough challenges.

The responsibilities of committees go beyond just monitoring and regulating the movement of the public. They include dealing with public needs and quarantining Palestinian laborers returning from Israel.

Apart from lacking the resources required to cover all areas, the PA does not enjoy complete sovereignty over all West Bank territory.

“Israeli forces try to destroy efforts,” Rateb Abyat, head of a local council in Bethlehem, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“This is why we consider ourselves fighting a national battle with soldiers trying to fill the gap left behind by authorities,” he added.

Abyat also heads an emergency response committee formed in the region. His committee includes local volunteers and members of the security services who were screened by authorities to validate their qualification.

About two weeks ago, Abyat and his associates worked out a plan to close the area, and the PA immediately agreed to it. But today, they face the challenge of the return of workers.

“Workers are our family and loved ones, but today they are the greatest challenge not only to power but to society as a whole,” Abayat said.

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