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Israel exploiting global coronavirus pandemic to expand settlements: Palestinian minister

This picture taken from the E1 corridor, a super-sensitive area of the occupied West Bank, shows the Israeli settlement of Ma'ale Adumim in the background on February 25, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

The Palestinian minister of Jerusalem al-Quds affairs, Fadi al-Hadami, has condemned Israel’s exploitation of the novel coronavirus pandemic to expand its settlement construction activities, saying the Tel Aviv regime aims to further Judaize the occupied holy city of Jerusalem al-Quds.

“Israelis are sparing no effort to complete the process of Judaization. In light of the world’s preoccupation with the fight against the [COVID-19] epidemic, we see that the pace of settlement expansion in al-Quds has increased, with more than 17,700 settlement units being built just within the past two months. This indicates that the Occupation (Israel) neither cares about the epidemic nor the campaign against coronavirus, and is simply pursuing its policies of settlement construction and land expropriation,” Hadami told the Arabic service of Russia’s Sputnik news agency in an exclusive interview.

He added that the Israeli regime also “continues its arrest campaign and attacks through the use of tear gas in the al-Quds neighborhoods of Issawiya and Silwan as well as the village of Qalandiya. We are facing an open and continuous onslaught that does not see the virus as a deterrent in order to give Jerusalemites an opportunity to fight the epidemic and protect themselves.”

The Palestinian minister then denounced Israeli officials over deliberate negligence in the Arab neighborhoods of the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds and its eastern sector amid the new coronavirus outbreak, stating that they do not carry out awareness-raising and sterilization procedures in those areas.

“We, as Palestinian officials, have fully assumed our responsibilities to serve Jerusalemites in the wake of the deliberate Israeli negligence. The Occupation claims that al-Quds is united, but in reality it is not. It is exercising double standards regarding West and East al-Quds,” Hadami pointed out.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the senior Palestinian official said he was arrested four times by Israeli officials over one year, the last of which was in early April, noting that the detentions were due to his constant efforts to support the people of al-Quds.

Back on March 28, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) said that Israel is exploiting the world’s preoccupation with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic to advance settlement projects and carry out “ethnic cleansing” against Palestinians.

The PLO’s National Office for Defending the Land and Resisting Settlements stated that settlers were “running wild” in light of the state of emergency declared due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

It also censured the Israeli regime over pursuing its policy of settlement construction and land grab despite the spread of the disease.

More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.

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