Israel is reportedly planning to provide vaccines for around 1,000 Palestinian healthcare workers in the West Bank, as international pressure mounts for the Jewish state to extend its ambitious vaccine drive beyond its own citizens.
Citing Israeli military sources, the Walla news site said Thursday that the shots would be transferred to the Palestinian Authority in two shipments “as soon as possible.”
Additionally, the report said the PA had asked Israel to help coordinate the eventual transfer of vaccine shipments to the West Bank, starting with some 10,000 shots of the Russian-made Sputnik vaccine.
The Palestinians have yet to formally ask Israel to launch a mass inoculation of their population, although a previous request by Ramallah for 10,000 vaccines for frontline healthcare workers was reportedly rejected by Israel.
Ramallah has also sent mixed signals on whether Israel ought to provide vaccinations for the Palestinians. Palestinian health officials have said that they are not planning to receive any shots from Israel, and have vigorously denied reports that Israel transferred 200 doses of coronavirus vaccine as a humanitarian gesture.
Israeli officials have said the Palestinians are responsible for vaccinating their own people according to the 1993 Oslo Accords between the two sides, although some officials have said that Israel will consider providing immunizations once all Israelis are vaccinated.
Israel launched its vaccination drive a month ago. Since then, nearly 2.8 million of its population of 9.3 million have received a first shot, with half of that number already getting the second dose too.
Human rights groups and the Palestinian Authority have criticized the vaccination of West Bank settlers but not Palestinians, even though the Oslo Accords state that the PA is in charge of health services for the Palestinians in the territory, including immunizations.
Earlier this month, the Palestine Liberation Organization urged the international community “to hold Israel to account” and ensure that it provides vaccines to all Palestinians living in territories controlled by Israel. Jerusalem has said no such official request has been made.
The matter has raised concerns on both sides of the Green Line. Some Israeli health experts have indicated there can be no herd immunity in Israel without Palestinians getting inoculated against the virus as well.
In mid-January, under pressure from rights groups, the Israel Prison Service said it had begun vaccinating all of its detainees, including the estimated 4,400 Palestinians held in its jails.
Some 2.8 million Palestinians live in the West Bank while two million pack the impoverished Gaza Strip, which has been ruled by the Hamas terror group since 2007, after it seized control of the enclave from the Palestinian Authority. Hamas openly seeks to destroy Israel.