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PA Releases Inmates from Prison over Corona Concerns

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The Palestinian Authority (PA) has decided to grant pardons to prison inmates who have served at least half of their sentences as a step in protecting their safety during the Coronavirus crisis. Photo by Majdi Fathi/TPS on 23 March, 2020

By: Baruch Yedid

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has decided to grant pardons to prison inmates who have served at least half of their sentences as a step in protecting their safety during the Coronavirus crisis. PA President Mahmoud Abbas last night signed an order on the matter.

Presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Monday that in light of the risks of the spread of the Coronavirus, Abbas had decided to grant special pardon to criminal prisoners. Victims were told they would be able to appeal in a civil lawsuit.

The decision does not apply to those convicted of serious crimes, Abu Rudeineh said. At this time, the number of prisoners set to be pardoned is unknown.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya has appealed to Saudi Arabia to release dozens of Hamas detainees in prisons and those recently sentenced to imprisonment for membership in the terrorist organization.

Hamas recently released 520 prisoners on bail and 87 other prisoners fully as the Gaza Strip prepares for a major outbreak of Covid-19. Hamas has prohibited remaining prisoners from receiving visitors, and instead allowing phone calls with family members.

The first two cases of the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) in the Gaza Strip were announced by Gazan health officials Sunday morning. The two patients had returned to Gaza from a trip to Pakistan, entering the Strip through the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

TPS has learned that the patients are in their 30s and 40s and work as NGO staffers at the Al-Sahaba Medical Center in Gaza City.

With its high population density and poor access to medical facilities, the Coronavirus is expected to spread rapidly in Gaza.

The PA has seen 57 confirmed cases of Coronavirus, the majority of them in the Bethlehem area. On Sunday, PA Minister Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh announced a lockdown of PA-governed areas.

In a related development, TPS reported that health officials in the Gaza Strip announced on Monday that Gazan medical centers would cease performing non-emergency operations and prohibit visits to hospital amid fear of a largescale outbreak of the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) in Gaza.

The measures are intended to prevent a large-scale outbreak in the Gaza Strip, following the discovery of two infections on Sunday.

While Hamas is trying to reassure Gaza residents that the situation is under control and civilian and security officials are taking the required steps, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Gaza Strip is not prepared for the outbreak.

A Hamas health spokesman announced that the two Pakistani contractors who tested positive for Covid-19 after returning from Pakistan, did not come into contact with Gazan residents, and that 29 people who came in contact with them had now gone into isolation.

The Hamas government published a list of actions it was undertaking in its media outlets, aimed at reassuring the public. Content included images from the isolation facility in Rafah, at the border crossing to Egypt, where 300 workers remain employed.

At present, at least 1,200 residents are in isolation in the various centers across the Gaza Strip and over 2,000 are staying in home isolation. As a measure of control, Tawfiq Abu Naim, who is in charge of the security forces in the Gaza Strip and his deputy, also entered quarantine.

             (TPS)

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