As the coronavirus pandemic gathered strength last month, community leaders in a Palestinian neighborhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem tried to impose lockdown and quarantine measures to protect residents.
The problem: there were no police to enforce the measures.
Kufr Aqab is within the Israeli-drawn municipal boundary of Jerusalem, which Israel views as its unified capital. It is therefore off-limits to the Palestinian Authority, which is headquartered in the nearby city of Ramallah and governs parts of the occupied West Bank.
But the neighborhood is on the opposite side of the separation barrier Israel built in the mid-2000s, so the Israeli police don’t go there either.
“This is no man’s land,” said Mayor Raed Hamdan.
When the neighborhood council set up checkpoints to restrict movement in or out, it had to rely on local volunteers. When it ordered businesses to close and people to stay home, they refused.
Now the town has at least 21 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to Sameh Abu Rumaila, the head of a local health committee that, like everything else, is run by volunteers. The committee estimates that another 500 people in the densely populated neighborhood have been in contact with those who were infected, but is powerless to isolate them.
“No one can control those people and put them into quarantine,” he said. Most have Jerusalem residency, allowing them to travel more or less freely in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Israel. Rumaila says the town is a “ticking bomb.”
REPUBLISHED FROM: ASSOCIATED PRESS