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Israel transferred dozens of vaccine doses to Palestinian Authority — report

Broadcaster says inoculations delivered after PA made request for ‘special humanitarian cases’; source says Abbas has not yet received shot; Palestinians deny report

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses arrive at a vaccination center in Jerusalem, January 4, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses arrive at a vaccination center in Jerusalem, January 4, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel has secretly transferred dozens of doses of coronavirus vaccine to the Palestinian Authority, the Kan public broadcaster reported Wednesday.

According to the report, the vaccines were delivered at the start of the week after the PA made a request for “special humanitarian cases.”

An unnamed Palestinian source told Kan that the vaccinations had not yet been used, noting that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had not been vaccinated.

The PA Health Ministry denied the report, telling the official Wafa news agency that a non-governmental Israeli company had offered 20 doses of a vaccine for a trial, an offer that had been rejected.

Senior Palestinian health official Osama al-Najjar also denied the reports, emphasizing that there was “nothing new” on the vaccine front.

The Kan report did not say which brand of vaccine had been transferred. Israel is currently administering the Pfizer-BioNTech shot to its citizens, but the PA’s health ministry has said in the past it would find it difficult to store that vaccine in the requisite subzero conditions.

Officials in Ramallah have also previously declared their intention to purchase millions of doses of the controversial Russian-produced Sputnik V vaccine, which is widely believed not to have undergone thorough safety testing.

The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which is home to some 2.8 million Palestinians, is responsible for providing health services to the Palestinians under the Oslo Accords and has not publicly asked for Israeli assistance in vaccine procurement.

The Hamas terror group, which controls the Gaza Strip, where about two million Palestinians live, is highly unlikely to publicly coordinate with Israel in any vaccination effort.

A health worker takes a sample to test for coronavirus at a health center in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 5, 2020 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The PA has said Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will be vaccinated through the United Nations-backed COVAX program. The PA health ministry said Monday that it expected to receive its first vaccine doses next month through COVAX.

Amnesty International on Wednesday called on Israel to provide coronavirus vaccine doses to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Additionally, hundreds of rabbis from various denominations, organized by Rabbis for Human Rights, have signed a letter arguing that Israel has a moral imperative to deliver vaccines to Palestinians, especially in Gaza.

Israel began inoculating its citizens on December 19, starting with medical workers and the over 60s, and has so far injected more than 1.5 million people.

A paramedic from the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health disinfects Palestinian laborers to help contain the coronavirus, as they exit a checkpoint after returning from work in Israel, near the West Bank village of Nilin, west of Ramallah, on April 7, 2020. (Nasser Nasser/AP)

The PA Health Ministry on Thursday confirmed there were 7,315 active coronavirus cases in the West Bank and 8,906 in the Gaza Strip.

There were 1,536 reported deaths from COVID-19 in both Gaza and the West Bank since the start of the pandemic.

Israel captured the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Six Day War. Tens of thousands of Palestinian workers cross into Israel from the West Bank for work on a daily basis, most of whom work in construction and agriculture.

Israel completely withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but, together with Egypt, maintains a tight blockade on the Strip to stop Hamas — which has fought three wars with the Jewish state since 2008 and calls for Israel’s destruction — from importing weapons and materials to construct fortifications.

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