Israel’s reported refusal so far to green light the entry of the just 1,000 – 2,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses into Gaza, which has a population of over 2 million Palestinians, does not bode well for future shipments of the vital vaccine into the territory.
Palestinian health workers and medical professionals in Gaza are still struggling to get their hands on the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, after Israeli authorities reportedly blocked the entry of 2,000 doses into the besieged territory.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) said that Israeli regime in Tel Aviv was refusing to allow the entry of some 2,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine that were acquired by the PA and were destined for Gaza from the West Bank.
The shipment was reportedly stopped by Israeli security forces at a checkpoint outside Ramallah in the West Bank.
Earlier this month the PA began vaccinating front-line health workers with a few thousand doses of the Moderna vaccine sent by Israel, and 10,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine — a portion of which were slated to be sent to health authorities in Gaza.
The occupying authorities prevented their entry,” Palestinian health minister Mai al-Kaila said in a statement. “These doses were intended for medical staff working in intensive care rooms designated for Covid-19 patients, and for staff working in emergency departments.”
Al-Kaila described the move as “arbitrary” in a statement, adding that Israel bore “the full responsibility” for blocking the entry of the doses — one of many shipments of the vaccine that the PA intends to send to Gaza, pending Israeli approval.
Hazem Qassem, the spokesperson for the Hamas movement that governs the Gaza Strip, described the move as “a real crime and a violation of all international laws and humanitarian standards.”
Israeli authorities from COGAT, the agency responsible for implementing the Israeli government’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), told AFP that the PA had only requested the transfer of 1,000 vaccines to Gaza, and that the request was “waiting for a political decision.”
Israeli sources had told AFP in recent days that the transfer was not a simple administrative measure under the purview of COGAT, but rather a political decision possibly now linked to talks between Hamas and Israel?
Al Jazeera reported that Israeli lawmakers in the Knesset were still debating on whether or not to allow vaccines into Gaza, with some leaders arguing that the vaccines would end up in the hands of senior Hamas officials rather than essential health workers.
Al Jazeera added Israeli officials had ruled out sending any of its vaccine supplies to Gaza, but were “weighing requests from other parties to allow the PA to deliver its own vaccines to the territory.”
Israel’s refusal so far to green light the entry of the just 1,000 – 2,000 vaccine doses into Gaza, which has a population of over 2 million Palestinians, does not bode well for future shipments of the vital vaccine into the territory.
The situation has highlighted the devastating effects that Israel’s 13-year air, land, and sea blockade can have on Gaza and the Palestinians living there.
Every shipment in and out of Gaza is controlled and managed by Israeli authorities, who often impose arbitrary restrictions under the fabricated pretext of “security concerns.”
As a result, the PA is once again pushing back its rollout of the vaccine, which according to health officials was supposed to start this month.
The PA is expected to receive 2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine through a number of avenues, including the WHO’s COVAX program.
Mondoweiss / ABC Flash Point Humanitarian Oppression News 2021.