JERUSALEM, Israel – Conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has taken a back seat as both sides team up to battle an even bigger threat and common enemy – COVID-19.
A clothing factory in Gaza has transformed from producing clothes for Israel’s fashion industry to producing protective medical gear that could help save lives amid the outbreak.
The company is producing 20,000 face masks and 2,000 protective suits for the Jewish State a day, its owner Nabil Bawab, told Ynet.
"Instead of shutting down the factory, we decided to transform it, reaching two goals: continuing to provide for hundreds of families in Gaza, and assisting the public by expanding the supply of masks and protective gear amid rising demand," he said.
Bawab said he has about 850 employees working to produce the medical gear.
"We work in shifts with 200 workers per shift so as not to cause excessive density in the factory," he told Ynet. "We have a professional team that sprays and sanitizes the factory once every two hours.”
Israeli and Palestinians have long worked together on security and civil issues, but now that cooperation is even more critical when facing a pandemic that threatens to kill thousands on both sides.
Ahmed Deek, a senior Foreign Ministry leader in the Palestinian Authority told al-Monitor this level of cooperation is “necessary and important as it serves a humanitarian [purpose] because [the outbreak] is a danger to all.”
The virus does not “distinguish between Jews and Muslims and [does] not respect political borders” Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told CBN News, and “as absurd as it may be,” Israel has a common interest with Hamas to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) is the Defense Ministry body Israel uses as a liaison between the Palestinians.
Through COGAT, Israel is making sure the Palestinians get “hundreds of tons of disinfectants and cleaning material for personal protection” along with “protective gear for medical staff and for others,” Conricus said.
Israeli and Palestinian doctors are also conducting joint training sessions online and in person.
Israel’s Health Ministry Israel has donated more than 1,000 coronavirus testing kits to the West Bank and Gaza and is facilitating more donations from the international community.
Yesterday, over 3,000 #COVID19 testing kits, donated by @WHO, and 50,000 protective masks, donated by @UNWRA, were transferred from Jordan via Allenby Bridge with the coordination of COGAT for use by medical teams in the Palestinian healthcare system in the region. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/FRlYG2biX2
— COGAT (@cogatonline) March 26, 2020
Yesterday, COGAT's Gaza CLA coordinated the transfer of 1,500 testing swabs to Gaza via the Erez Crossing. The swabs are used to test patients for #COVIDー19 and were donated by the @WHO. pic.twitter.com/iX2yUqLbe9
— COGAT (@cogatonline) April 3, 2020
The cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians received rare praise from the United Nations.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov recently emphasized the “excellent coordination and cooperation that has been established with all Israeli and Palestinian interlocutors,” according to a readout of the briefing.
Some 263 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have been infected with COVID-19. One person has died from the virus. Meanwhile, 9,404 Israelis have been infected and 74 have died.
Most of the new coronavirus cases appearing in the West Bank come from Palestinian workers returning from their jobs in Israel, the Wafa news agency reports.
The Jerusalem Post reports Israel’s Health Ministry is working with the National Security Council and the army to find a solution and keep both peoples safe.
“It’s definitely an all-out effort,” said Conricus. “It’s the right thing to do from a moral point of view and it’s also the right thing to do from a military and medical point of view.”
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