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Israel extends closure of West Bank, Gaza Strip amid coronavirus outbreak Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Israel extends closure of West Bank, Gaza Strip amid coronavirus outbreak

Bethlehem is under complete lockdown. [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 March, 2020

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No final date has been issued for lifting the closure on Bethlehem, which has been completely shut down since last week in coordination with the Palestinian Authority.
Israel has announced it will extend closures imposed on the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The defence ministry said on Wednesday that the closure on Gaza, which began on Sunday, would be extended until Saturday.

No final date was issued for lifting the closure on Bethlehem, which has been completely shut down since last week in coordination with the Palestinian Authority.

At least 30 people in the West Bank have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, all but one in the city of Bethlehem.

The PA announced a month-long state of emergency last week after the first seven cases were identified.

The Church of the Nativity, built on the site Christians believe was the birthplace of Jesus, was closed. Other sites are also expected to be shuttered for a month.

All tourist buses to and from Bethlehem were banned until further notice, while Palestinian authorities ordered restaurants and cafes closed in multiple cities, including Ramallah. 

Israel's defence ministry on Thursday announced it has limited the number of Palestinian workers able to enter the country to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Palestinian labourers older than 50 will not be allowed to cross into Israel, while Israeli citizens will not be allowed to enter PA-administered areas, the ministry said.

Earlier this week the Israeli-controlled Allenby border crossing between the West Bank and Jordan was shut in both directions.

There have been around 100 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Israel, many of whom had recently returned from abroad.

Earlier this week Israel imposed a two-week quarantine on all travellers entering the country, toughening already significant travel restrictions.

Entry has been barred to almost all non-residents arriving from France, Germany, Spain, Austria and Switzerland, with Israel declaring that arrivals from those nations could only enter if they could prove they had a place to stay in quarantine.

Those measures had come on top of restrictions previously imposed on arrivals from mainland China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Macau, South Korea, Japan and Italy.

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