Palestinians call for pressure on Israel to allow vaccines into Gaza

Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip also warned that Israel would "bear the consequences" of its decision.

Palestinians receive Russia's Sputnik V vaccine (photo credit: Courtesy)
Palestinians receive Russia's Sputnik V vaccine
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Palestinian Authority has called on the international community to pressure Israel to allow COVID-19 vaccines to enter Gaza.
To date, Israel has not allowed vaccines to enter Gaza. It has, however, already facilitated the transfer of some vaccines to the Palestinian Authority for use in the West Bank but it has yet to decide whether it would demand that Hamas release of two Israeli civilians held hostage in Gaza and the return the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, before it will allow vaccine to enter Gaza.
Israel controls two of the three main crossings into Gaza, the commercial one at Kerem Shalom and the pedestrian one at Erez.
All vaccines slated for Gaza, would need approval from Israel to enter through either of those crossings. The PA has already received 10,000 Sputnik vaccine doses from Russia of which it wants to transfer 1,000 to Gaza’s health workers.
When the PA receives additional vaccines, it would want to transfer some to Gaza as well.
The vaccines for the Palestinians are not the Pfizer or Modern vaccines which Israel purchased for its citizens. They are fragile, and require special refrigeration. Conditions in Gaza, where the electricity supply is limited and unstable, means that those vaccines are unsuitable for use there.
At issue is whether to transfer the vaccines that the PA has purchased.
Israel’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee discussed the matter on Monday and the National Security Council will issue an opinion on the matter shortly before a decision is made.
The Palestinian Authority condemned Israel on Tuesday for preventing the delivery of vaccines to the Gaza Strip.
 Ibrahim Milhem, spokesman for the PA government, said that the PA prime minister and the government considered Israel’s move a violation of international law.
Milhem called on the World Health Organization and international organizations to condemn Israel and hold it responsible for the dangers resulting from denying vaccines to Gaza. He also urged the international community to help in the immediate delivery of the vaccines to the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.
Hamas spokesman Hasem Qassem denounced Israel’s decision as “racist” and said it was “one of the forms of aggression on the Palestinians.” He too called on the international community to take severe steps to provide the vaccines to the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip also warned that Israel would “bear the consequences” of its decision.
They said in a statement that “the whole world is required to take urgent action to put pressure on the occupation [Israel] and force it to allow the vaccines to reach the Gaza Strip.”
The spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters when pressed about the vaccines, "We've continued to encourage Israel to help address the priority needs of the Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory."