The dramatic deterioration in coordination between Israel and Palestine as the former seeks to annex large swaths of the West Bank has hurt both sides in their efforts to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic, the UN warned Tuesday. 

“Regrettably, the situation on the ground is rapidly being affected by the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel,” Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s special envoy for Middle East peace told the Security Council.

“I am also concerned that we are far below the level of coordination that existed in the beginning of the year, when the first wave of the virus hit. This situation could have serious repercussions on the ability to control its spread and its impact on people’s lives,” he added.

Amid the “unprecedented circumstances,” Mladenov said the UN has offered to bolster its role as an intermediary between the parties to help the coronavirus response and assist in the the referrals of patients from the besieged Gaza Strip.

“Nevertheless, there are limitations to what the UN and other organizations can be expected to do. Any increased responsibilities in this context should be limited and time-bound and not designed to replace the roles and responsibilities of the Palestinian Authority or the Government of Israel,” he said.

The warning comes just hours after Israeli forces on Tuesday demolished a structure used as a quarantine center for people suspected of contracting coronavirus in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Local residents said Israeli authorities claimed the lack of a building permit for razing the 700-meter center.

“The center was being prepared over the past three months,” the landlord, Raed Meswada, told Anadolu Agency. “The Israeli occupation looks like it is seeking to spread the virus in the city.” 

Meswada said the demolition of the center was “proof that the Israeli occupation does not care about the virus outbreak, which does not differentiate between Palestinians and Israelis”.

The Palestinian Health Ministry on Tuesday confirmed two deaths and 400 virus cases in the West Bank over the past 24 hours, including 119 infections in Hebron. The count in the West Bank and Gaza Strip now stand at 10,923, including 67 deaths.

Israeli health authorities on Monday reported 951 infections in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s total cases to 50,714, including 409 deaths.

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