On 6 May, the Order of Malta’s Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Stefano Ronca, received the Foreign Affairs Minister of Palestine Riad Al-Malki in the Magistral Palace.
Minister Al-Malki expressed serious concern for the growing tensions between Palestine and Israel. Tensions which culminated last night with violent clashes on the border between Gaza and Israel, causing deaths and injuries. The fighting – also recorded in other cities – was sparked by evictions in the Sheikh Jarrah district in East Jerusalem, leading to demonstrations and clashes on the Esplanade of the Mosques.
The Palestinian minister said that the current situation has forced the scheduled general and presidential elections to be postponed. In addition, the number of Covid-19 infections remains worrying in the context of insufficient vaccine distribution and a lack of medicines and oxygen in hospitals. This issue was also at the heart of discussions between the minister and his Italian counterpart, Minister Luigi Di Maio, which also took place on the eve of the new clashes.
The collapse of the economy, especially that linked to pilgrimages, has led to a general deterioration in the living conditions of the Bethlehem community, where the Order of Malta has run a maternity hospital since 1990. The Holy Family Hospital continues to be a medical excellence in the region, the only hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit. The Palestinian Minister stressed the essential role played precisely by the hospital and in general by the Order of Malta in Palestine, hoping that their joint humanitarian projects could be further strengthened. Already in 2018, the Order of Malta and Palestine had signed a memorandum of understanding to bring humanitarian aid to third countries.
Today’s visit follows that made by the same minister in 2019 and that of the President of the State of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas in 2018, when he was received in Rome by the then Grand Master Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre.
The Order of Malta has enjoyed official relations with Palestine since 2011, when the Order’s Representative Office was opened in Ramallah. Numerous cooperation agreements regarding humanitarian assistance have been signed over the years.