Photo Credit: COGAT / IDF
Gaza citizens entering Erez crossing terminal.

Twelve Israeli doctors entered Gaza on Thursday in the first such medical delegation to go to the enclave since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The doctors, all of whom are Israeli Arabs, will teach Gaza medical teams, conduct specialized medical training and conduct surgeries, according to the Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) organization, which organized the medical delegation.

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All the physicians are providing their services free. The delegation is to remain in Gaza for two days and will then return to Israel. None of the doctors are being compensated for their participation.

The physicians brought medical equipment and medications with which to treat the virus; but they will also assist in treating Gazans with other urgent issues who have been without care due to the backlog in Gaza hospitals from coronavirus patients.

“The treatments will not deal with coronavirus but rather with the chronically ill and other emergency cases whose treatment has been delayed because of coronavirus,” said PHRI spokesperson Ran Yaron.

Members of the team include orthopedists, neurologists, heart surgeons, mental health experts and other senior doctors. The team has also opened a mobile medical facility in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, in addition to its work at the treatment center in Gaza City.

There were 10,321 Gazans battling the virus on Thursday – a huge leap from the 2,000 active cases of the virus that existed just three weeks ago. In the past 24 hours alone, 827 Gaza residents were diagnosed with COVID-19: more than 30 percent of the tests for the virus came back positive. Four Gazans died from the virus Thursday.

In the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria, 1,911 new cases of the coronavirus were diagnosed on Thursday, and nine individuals died of COVID-19 related complications.

A spokesperson for the Gaza Interior Ministry announced a series of measures on Thursday aimed at stopping the spread of the virus. Speaking at a news conference, ministry spokesperson Iyad al-Bazem said on weekdays, all stores and national institutions will close their doors at 6:00 pm; from 6:30 pm, residents will not be allowed to leave their homes.

A full lockdown will be in place in the enclave every Friday and Saturday for the next month.

Government-run markets will be closed, and social distancing regulations will be enforced to prevent overcrowding in communal markets. Group celebrations and mourning tents are banned.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.