Israel slaps virus closure on Palestinian-ruled areas of West Bank

An Israeli policeman walks in front of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. (AP pic)

RAMALLAH: Israel closed off Palestinian-administered areas of the occupied West Bank on Wednesday to limit the spread of the coronavirus, an official said.

“From today, a closure has taken place in the West Bank,” said Yotam Shefer, who heads the international department of COGAT, the Israeli military body responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories.

He told journalists the decision had been taken in conjunction with the Palestinian government, based in Ramallah.

The border crossing with the Gaza Strip has been closed in recent days and will remain so, Shefer added.

Around 70,000 Palestinians in the West Bank work in Israel, crossing back and forth daily.

They now have three days to either enter permanently for the coming months or remain in the West Bank, the Palestinian government announced Tuesday night.

Palestinians who work in Jewish settlements in the West Bank will still be allowed to cross over daily, Shefer said.

Around 400,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank, communities considered illegal under international law.

Israel has imposed tough restrictions to restrict the spread of the deadly virus.

People have been ordered to stay at home unless going to buy food or medicine, seeking medical attention or travelling to workplaces where no more than 10 people are present.

So far 427 Israelis and 44 Palestinians have been infected, but no deaths have been registered.