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World

Israeli airstrikes destroy the only COVID-19 testing lab in Gaza

  • The strike also damaged the administrative offices of the Hamas-run Health Ministry.
  • A surge in COVID-19 is expected in Gaza due to civilians having to cram into shelters to avoid airstrikes.
  • Israel has named the Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif as one of its top targets.
Updated 19 May 2021

An Israeli airstrike has damaged the only coronavirus testing laboratory in Gaza, Palestinian officials said.

Missile attacks from Israel damaged Al Remal clinic, Gaza's only COVID-19 laboratory. The strikes have also damaged the administrative offices of the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

Dr. Majdi Dhair, director of the ministry’s preventive medicine department, said that one ministry employee was hospitalized and in serious condition after shrapnel struck him in the head.

The director further said that it would take at least a day to clean up the damage. In the meantime, medical teams have stopped administering COVID-19 tests.

Ashraf Qidra, Gaza's health ministry spokesman said that Israel's strikes "threaten to undermine the efforts of the health ministry in the face of the COVID pandemic."

The lab will also not be able to process other tests related to H.I.V., hepatitis C and other conditions, The New York Times reported.

According to the World Health Organisation, Israeli attacks have damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics in Gaza. According to AFP, "Gaza has one of the world's highest positive coronavirus test rates, 28%."

Last week, UN and WHO officials told The New York Times that a surge in COVID-19 is expected in Gaza due to civilians having to cram into shelters to avoid airstrikes.

The fighting began when Hamas fired long-range rockets towards Jerusalem in retaliation to Israel’s shelling of Muslim worshippers in the Al Aqsa Mosque.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, at least 219 Palestinians including 63 children and 36 women, have been killed in airstrikes while 1,530 people have been wounded. On Wednesday, Israeli airstrikes killed another six people in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Israel has named the Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif as one of its top targets.

"Throughout the operation, we have tried to assassinate Mohammed Deif. We've tried to kill him several times, a spokesman for the army, Brigadier-General Hidai Zilberman said.

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