JERUSALEM The first doses of the coronavirus vaccine arrived in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday after Israel approved their delivery.
Mai al-Kaila, the Palestinian Authority’s health minister, said 2,000 doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine had been transported into the territory.
She said the vaccines would be distributed to front-line medical teams, but the territories Ministry of Health said the first priority would be dialysis patients and people undergoing transplants, followed by medical staff.
The Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-government over parts of the West Bank while the militant group Hamas controls Gaza. In Gaza, with a population of about 2 million, the number of registered Covid cases has dropped significantly after an increase in December.
The vaccines were distributed amid a heated debate over whether Israel bears responsibility for the health of Palestinians living in the occupied territory.
While human rights groups have argued that international law requires Israel to provide Palestinians with access to the same vaccines as it makes available to its citizens, Israeli policy supporters have claimed that the Palestinians took responsibility for the services. health when it signed the Oslo Accords in the 1990s.
The vaccines delivered to Gaza were not supplied by Israel but by the Palestinian Authority.
Still, their transfer required Israeli approval and provoked a debate in the Israeli Parliament. Some right-wing lawmakers had demanded that the government condition their distribution on the return of two Israeli nationals and the bodies of two soldiers believed to be held by Hamas.
It is forbidden for Israel and its leader to abandon the fate of captive citizens and give up an opportunity to return the bodies of fallen soldiers, Zvi Hauser, a member of parliament, told a parliamentary committee that discussed the issue. on Monday.
A Hamas spokesman dismissed the idea as an attempt at extortion.
However, an Israeli government official said senior Israeli officials had recommended that the request be approved. It was Wednesday.
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