Israel allowed 1,000 of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines to be transferred to the Gaza Strip through the Erez border crossing on Wednesday, following approval from the Defense Ministry.
The transfer had been held up by debates in Israel, including a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, as to whether to demand that Hamas free civilians it is holding hostage in Gaza, Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, that Hamas has kept since 2014.
Goldin’s family petitioned the High Court of Justice on Wednesday to stop the transfer of vaccines to Hamas-controlled Gaza until the soldiers’ bodies and the captives are released.
Simcha Goldin, Hadar Goldin’s father, said the country was “stabbing IDF combat soldiers in the back.”
“The minimal requirement should be to bring back the fighters Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin,” he said. “This government has lost its basic values and is abandoning IDF soldiers to the worst of Israel’s enemies.”Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Zvi Hauser criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for allowing the vaccines to be transferred "to the heads of Hamas in Gaza, and didn't insist on getting even a scintilla of information about the Israeli captives."
Netanyahu defended the decision, saying “we’re in one epidemiological range.”
“We have a clear interest that we don’t want illnesses and sick people to pass through our borders from the Palestinian Authority and Gaza,” Netanyahu told Army Radio.
Still, he added: “I am committed to bringing back our missing [civilians] and soldiers, and we are working on it these days, as well.”
Russia donated 10,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the Palestinian Authority last week, and the PA requested that the IDF allow 1,000 to be sent to Gaza for use by health workers.
On Tuesday, the PA called on the international community to pressure Israel into allowing vaccines into Gaza.
The PA plans to transfer more doses of the vaccine to Gaza when it receives them.
The infrastructure and limited electricity supply in Gaza do not allow for the storage of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines Israel purchased, several thousand of which it gave to the PA, and as such, Gazans can only receive the Sputnik V vaccine donations from the PA.
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.