(CNSNews.com) – A preacher told worshipers in Gaza’s largest mosque on Friday that Allah sent the coronavirus to inflict suffering on Israelis, Americans and those who plot against the Al-Aqsa mosque, while protecting Palestinians.
While Israeli streets were deserted as a result of lockdown precautions, said Jamil al-Mutawa, the mosque he was preaching in – the White Mosque in Gaza City – was full.
“Look how empty their streets are and look how crowded this mosque is,” he said, in comments translated by the East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). “Who is it that has given us security and terrified them? Who is it that has protected us and harmed them? It is Allah!”
Less than 48 hours after al-Mutawa’s sermon, Gaza’s deputy health minister announced the first two confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Hamas-ruled territory.
In his sermon, which was aired on Hamas’ television network, Al-Aqsa TV, he likened the virus to a “soldier” and noted how many cases were being predicted across the United States.
“[Allah] has sent just one soldier. What would happen had he sent 50 like the coronavirus? He has sent just one soldier and it has hit all 50 [American] states. An hour ago, they said on TV that in California ... They said that they expect 58 percent of California to be infected within two months. They talk about 25 million infected people in just one of the 50 states.”
“Allah be praised,” al-Mutawa said. “Look how anyone who schemes against the Al-Aqsa Mosque is being shattered to smithereens by the soldiers of Allah.”
“Look how empty the [Israeli] cities are. Look how empty their streets are and look how crowded this mosque is. Who is it that has given us security and terrified them? Who is it that has protected us and harmed them? It is Allah!”
“Oh Allah, keep [the coronavirus] away from us, ward it off from us, and unleash it against the people behind the evil Deal [of the Century],” he said, in reference to President Trump’s Mideast peace initiative.
The two confirmed COVID-19 cases in Gaza are two men who returned from Pakistan and entered Gaza from Egypt. They are now in quarantine at a hospital in southern Gaza.
Earlier this month, authorities in Gaza had issued orders for returnees to self-isolate for 14 days, but according to reports, Gazans largely ignored calls for social distancing, since the health ministry had reported no cases in the territory (unlike in the West Bank).
Schools in Gaza were closed, and since March 15 a total of 1,420 returnees to Gaza were placed in enforced quarantine for 14 days, in 22 dedicated schools, hotels, hospitals and health facilities.
It was only on Friday – the same day as al-Mutawa’s sermon – that Hamas began to close other facilities drawing large groups of people, such as restaurants, street markets and reception halls. Friday prayers at mosques will now also be suspended.
On March 13, the Israeli government sent 200 coronavirus testing kits to Gaza, with further deliveries of testing kits, protective suits and masks on March 18 and March 21. Similar deliveries have been made to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank over the past fortnight.
According to World Health Organization figures for Tuesday, the Palestinian territories have a total of 59 confirmed COVID-19 cases. No deaths have been reported.
Israel’s health ministry on Tuesday night reported a total of 1,930 cases and three deaths. The first Israeli to die from the disease, on Saturday, was an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor.
The government announced on Sunday it was closing all crossings from the West Bank and Gaza into Israel.
Israel also helped some 1,000 foreigners in the P.A.-administered areas to leave for their home countries via Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.
Meanwhile the Muslim body that administers the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City announced its closure due to the outbreak – the first time the third-holiest site in Islam has been closed since 1967.