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Palestinian president’s rival delivers vaccines to Gaza




The handover came days after the Abbas-led West Bank-based Palestinian Authority managed to deliver only 2,000 doses of the same vaccine to Gaza through Israel, which had delayed shipment for several days. Sunday’s handover appears to have been intended in part to make the Abbas government appear ineffective.

Dahlan, a former senior member of the Abbas Fatah party, has lived in exile in Abu Dhabi since falling out with the Palestinian leader in 2011.

Gaza has been ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas since 2007, when it took control of the territory from Abbas’s forces.

Together, the vaccines are enough for 11,000 people, a handful of Gaza 2 million people. The Hamas-led health ministry said vaccination would begin Monday with medical staff and honorary personalities.

It is estimated that Gaza needs 2.6 million doses to inoculate people aged 16 and over.

Dahlan, a former security chief from the Abbas Fatah party, was forced to flee Gaza during the takeover of Hamas in 2007. But in recent years, he has adjusted ties with the group thanks to their shared hostility to Abbas.

The Palestinians plan to hold what would be their first parliamentary elections in 15 years in May. Vaccine deliveries are likely to improve the position of Dahlan and his fragmented Fatah group, called the Democratic Reform Bloc, on the ballot.

Abbas has blocked Dahlan from running in the polls, but members of his group are planning to run, positioning them as a potential creator in the election between Hamas and Fatah.

Gaza health authorities have reported more than 54,000 coronavirus infections and 543 deaths.

Israel has faced international criticism for the massive exclusion of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza from its highly successful vaccination campaign.

Rights groups say it has an obligation as an occupying power to share its vaccines with the Palestinians. Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 war, territories the Palestinians want for their future state.

Israel denies having such an obligation and says its priority is its citizens, as well as the Palestinians in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem. He says the Palestinian Authority is responsible for health care in the territories it administers under interim peace agreements.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but has maintained a blockade with Egypt on the territory in an effort it says aims to prevent Hamas from arming itself.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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