Democratic senators ask Pompeo to provide coronavirus aid to Palestinian territories

Greg Nash

A group of Democratic senators led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on Monday asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ensure the Gaza Strip and the West Bank receive any necessary aid to combat the coronavirus pandemic in a letter.

In the letter, the senators note that at least 50 cases of the virus have been confirmed in the West Bank and two in the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian Authority has declared a state of emergency and established a joint operations room with the Israeli government.

“Gaza, with a population of approximately 1.8 million people and one of the most densely populated areas of the world, has a weak public health system, and has been subject to a blockade and border restrictions since 2007,” the senators wrote, noting that an estimated 38 percent of residents live in poverty and about a third of essential medications are unavailable.

“Altogether, these conditions, if compounded by a COVID-19 outbreak in the region, would further endanger the health of Palestinians in the coastal enclave,” the letter states, noting that in 2018 the Trump administration froze nearly all bilateral aid to the Palestinians and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.

“Given the spread of the coronavirus in the West Bank and Gaza, the extreme vulnerability of the health system in Gaza, and the continued withholding of U.S. aid to the Palestinian people, we are concerned that the Administration is failing to take every reasonable step to help combat this public health emergency in the Palestinian Territories,” the letter adds.

Warren and Van Hollen asked for further details on how the administration plans to obligate the $75 million in Palestinian aid mandated by appropriations for fiscal 2020, as well as how many medical facilities in the Palestinian territories are equipped to treat coronavirus patients and what steps the State Department is taking to coordinate with U.N. agencies and foreign governments.

Warren and Van Hollen were joined on the letter by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Tags Bernie Sanders Chris Van Hollen Coronavirus Elizabeth Warren Gaza Strip Jeff Merkley Mike Pompeo Palestine Patrick Leahy Sherrod Brown Tom Carper Tom Udall

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