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Israel to supply 5,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine to the Palestinians




The vaccination campaign started at the end of December 2020 in Israel (photo: WHO).
The vaccination campaign started at the end of December 2020 in Israel (photo: WHO).
ISRAEL / PALESTINE. Accused by several organisations of forgetting the Palestinians in its vaccination plan against the coronavirus, the State of Israel will finally provide "5,000 vaccines to the medical teams of the Palestinian Authority", as a spokeswoman for the Israeli Ministry of Defence said on Sunday 31 January 2021. According to the Israeli press, 2,000 doses were delivered on Monday 1 February 2021.

At the end of December 2020, the Israeli government launched its vaccination campaign and more than three million people, a third of the population, were immunised with products from the Pfizer and Moderna laboratories. With very positive results since, according to Cyrille Cohen, an immunologist at Bar Ilan University (Tel Aviv), assured France Info on Monday 1st February 2021 that the country was observing "a 50% drop in infections and a 40% drop in hospitalisations".

Tor Wennesland, the new UN coordinator for the Middle East, and the NGO Human Right Watch (HRW) had urged Israel to facilitate the vaccination of 4.8 million Palestinians (2.8 million in the West Bank and 2 million in Gaza), citing "international law" and "international humanitarian law" as "obligations". Amnesty International referred to "institutionalised discrimination". King Abdullah II of Jordan also said that it is not possible to "vaccinate one part of society and not the other and think you will be safe". Jordan was one of the first countries in the world to vaccinate refugees against Covid-19. The same idea for Omar Shakir, HRW director for Israel and Palestine, for whom "the virus does not discriminate as to who it infects, but the Israeli government does discriminate as to who it chooses to vaccinate against it".

The Palestinian Authority has placed four orders

Only the Israelis in these territories, the 450,000 settlers, had been receiving the vaccine until then. According to HRW, "nothing can justify the current reality in some parts of the West Bank where people on one side of the street receive the vaccine, while those on the other side do not, depending on whether they are Jewish or Palestinian".
Palestinians in East Jerusalem are already benefiting from the vaccination plan and Israel has finally agreed, since 17 January 2021, at the request of the Palestinian Authority, to vaccinate the 4,400 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

The debate had been going on for several days around two theories. The first, developed by the Israeli authorities, invokes the Oslo Accords (1993) which stipulate that the health of the population of the occupied territories is the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority. With the help of the World Health Organization (WHO), the latter has placed four orders for vaccines (which would cover 70% of the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza). The first doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine should arrive in Palestine in the next few days. While waiting for those from Covax, scheduled for mid-February.

The second theory, put forward by the supporters of sharing Israeli vaccines, is based on the 4th Geneva Convention, which states in Article 56 that "the occupying power has the duty to ensure and maintain, with the assistance of national and local authorities, medical and hospital establishments and services, in particular by adopting and applying the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics".
In a statement, the NGO HRW further states that "while the Israeli government retains primary control, by sidelining the Palestinian authorities, it should not suddenly be able to attribute sole responsibility to these authorities when it wants to offload its responsibilities for the health of people under occupation. The Israeli and Palestinian authorities in the occupied territory should cooperate to ensure that everyone receives vaccinations without discrimination".

As of 14 January 2021, the Palestinian Authority recorded 5,817 active cases of Covid-19 in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) while Hamas reported 7,000 in the Gaza Strip. According to calculations by the Johns Hopkins University, since the beginning of the pandemic and as of 1 February 2021, Israel has registered 647,237 cases and 4,808 deaths. The Palestinian territories have a total of 158,962 cases and 1,833 deaths.

Frédéric Dubessy


Monday, February 1st 2021



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