Israel places Bethlehem on lockdown after coronavirus cases detected
The unprecedented measures were announced by Israeli Defence Minister Neftali Bennet, with a complete ban on all entry and exit into the sacred Palestinian city.
According to Israeli media, the decision was made in coordination with the Palestinian Authority (PA), who announced a month-long state of emergency on Thursday evening.
The development comes after the closure of The Church of Nativity, the site where Christians believe Jesus was born, along with other places of worship in Bethlehem.
The Palestinian health ministry announced that a total of seven Palestinians from the Biblical city had tested positive for the virus, the first cases reported in the Palestinian territories, and were being treated in quarantine.
The cases were reportedly found at a hotel where two Greek tourists, who were later diagnosed with the virus had stayed. The virus had then spread to hotel workers.
In a televised statement, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said that the state of emergency would mean a near-total lockdown of Palestinian society.
The closure encompassed all educational institutions, from children's nurseries through to universities and research institutions.
Movement between different West Bank cities has been restricted to essential travel, with mass gatherings and protests banned.
Streets in Bethlehem and Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is based, were nearly empty on Friday morning, with most shops closed, according to AFP.
Israel currently has 17 confirmed cases of coronavirus and has imposed stringent measures of arrivals from European countries in a bid to contain the virus, which has now over 100,000 detected cases globally.
Israel has also placed joint military exercises with the United States, due to take place in Germany, on hold, while announcing that its troops would be prevented from leaving the country, whether 'on personal trips or on duty'.
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