Middle East Eye makes up a story:
Israeli authorities have demolished a Palestinian drive-through coronavirus testing centre in the city of Hebron, south of the occupied West Bank.
Raed Maswadeh, a 35-year-old engineer whose family owns the land in which the drive-through test service was being built, told Middle East Eye that three months ago the municipality had appealed to Palestinians to raise funds to build the facility.
“My family decided to donate our land at the northern entrance of Hebron for the purpose of constructing a Covid-19 test clinic,” Maswadeh said.
It was built in the memory of his grandfather, who died recently due to coronavirus, and Maswadeh said the project cost his family around $250,000.
The land is located in Area C, a part of the West Bank totally controlled by Israel, which almost never gives out building permits for Palestinian residents. Israeli settlers in the area, however, face no such problems.
Maswadeh said that they started building the centre without a permit, like many properities in the area.
“If we applied for a permit, we would not have gotten it. We thought maybe during Covid-19, there would be some exceptions,” he said.
Maswadeh told MEE that construction had been ongoing for two months, while Israeli soldiers patrolled the area. The soldiers watched bulldozers and building equipment enter the site, but said nothing, according to Maswadeh.
However, on 12 July, they received a military order to stop the construction, which was handed to them by an Israeli army commander.
Nothing adds up. Someone would spend $250,000 to build a COVID-19 testing center without a building permit in Area C when they know ahead of time that it would probably be demolished? 80% of Hebron is in Area A, where such a center could be built with no permission needed from Israel.
In another article, Maswadeh changes his story to makes the issue sound even more dramatic. The testing center is no longer a drive-through facility but it was also a regular testing center and a residence for people to live while in quarantine before entering Hebron. It is no longer recently built after two months of construction but:
“The building has been fully equipped for three months, and it was in the final stages before its opening, it did not matter to the Israeli occupation, which seems to be seeking to increase the spread of the epidemic in the country. The center has been destroyed, and this is evidence that the Israeli occupation is not concerned with curbing this epidemic, which does not distinguish between Israelis or Palestinians, but Israeli arrogance ignores that.”
The center is now much more expansive, already built and equipped for three months (meaning it was already completed in April, and therefore the building must have started before a single Palestinian was diagnosed.)
An interview with the mayor of Hebron shows that this story is false.
At the northern entrance to Hebron, which connects it with Halhoul and with villages to the north, west, and east, the municipality began to build a center for taking samples (corona testing) from those coming to the city from this entrance, but the occupation authorities lied in wait, because the center received a (notification about its) demolition, even before the work on it (i.e. building it) was finished, or before it was equipped, according to what the mayor of Hebron, Taysir Abu Sneine said to “Al-Arabi Al-Jadid”.
Abu Sneine said: “We began working eleven days ago on this plot of land, that was donated by the citizen Ra’ed Masawdeh, and after the groundwork, we erected a structure that resembled a center or a clinic, but the citizen received a notification from the occupation about the demolition of the center that was being equipped, while the occupation never misses a chance to commit violations against Hebron and its sons, even when the governorate (of Hebron) is facing the coronavirus.”
According to Hebron’s mayor, the municipality only barely started construction of the building when Israel informed them that it was illegal – not, as now is claimed, while watching the construction for two or three months.
This is a classic case of Palestinians deliberately building in Area C for purely political purposes – if Israel enforces the law, it makes Israel look bad for demolishing what Palestinians claim is essential infrastructure; if Israel does not enforce the law, they have successfully stolen land from Israel. Maswadeh’s changing story and eagerness to cast Israel as a devil proves this.
Meanwhile, there is a resurgence of COVID-19 in Hebron. Instead of concentrating on that, too many Palestinian leaders are spending money and time playing these sorts of anti-Israel political games.
(h/t Ibn Boutros)
UPDATE: As I suspected, the entire story is made up. COGAT issued a statement five days ago that the illegal building was only retroactively called a COVID-19 facility after Israel issued orders to demolish it. That’s when they created a sign claiming it was meant as a medical facility. No one claimed it was a COVID-19 test center while it was being built.
You can also see from this photo that the building was not ready to open, as Maswadeh claimed.