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Over 250 world artists urge end to Israel’s siege of Gaza amid COVID-19 outbreak

Palestinian children are pictured outside their shacks in Gaza City's al-Shati refugee camp on May 15, 2020, as Palestinians marked the 72nd anniversary of Nakba Day due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by AFP)

More than 250 global artists and writers have warned of a devastating effect of the deadly coronavirus pandemic on the Gaza Strip, urging the Israeli regime to stop the "siege" in "the world's largest open air prison."

"We back Amnesty International's call on all world governments to impose a military embargo on Israel until it fully complies with its obligations under international law," the artists said in an online letter on Saturday.

It added that the United Nations has warned that the "blockaded coastal strip would be unlivable by 2020" long before the COVID-19 outbreak threatened to overwhelm the already devastated healthcare system in Gaza.

"With the pandemic, Gaza's almost two million inhabitants, predominantly refugees, face a mortal threat in the world's largest open-air prison," the letter said.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade since June 2007, which has caused a decline in the standard of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.

The occupying regime has imposed three major wars against Gaza, killing thousands of people each time and shattering the impoverished territory’s already poor infrastructure.

Among the signatories are British musician Peter Gabriel, British director Ken Loach, Danish-American actor Viggo Mortensen, Moroccan poet Taha Adnan, Canadian writer Naomi Klein and British musical group group Massive Attack.

"Well before the ongoing crisis, Gaza's hospitals were already stretched to breaking point through lack of essential resources denied by Israel's siege. Its healthcare system could not cope with the thousands of gunshot wounds, leading to many amputations," the artists said.

They emphasized that reports of the first cases of coronavirus in Gaza were deeply disturbing.

The first two cases of coronavirus infection were confirmed in the densely-populated Gaza Strip in March.

According to Palestinian health officials, two Palestinians who had traveled from Pakistan and entered Gaza through Egypt tested positive for the virus late on March 21 at the entry checkpoint.

An international committee fighting against the ongoing Israeli-imposed land, air, and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip in April called for a collective international action to lift the siege as humanitarian and health conditions are deteriorating in the Palestinian enclave amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

The head of the International Committee for Breaking the Siege of Gaza, Zaher Birawi, in a statement demanded urgent international action to end the blockade on Gaza, and provide the coastal sliver with medicine and necessary medical supplies, especially in light of the new coronavirus pandemic.

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