Israel begins transferring coronavirus vaccines to Palestinian Authority

The rest of the expected total of 5,000 vaccines will reportedly be transferred in three more shipments.

Moderna vaccines transferred from Israel to the Palestinian Authority. Feb, 2, 2021 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Moderna vaccines transferred from Israel to the Palestinian Authority. Feb, 2, 2021
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel began transferring coronavirus vaccines to the Palestinian Authority on Monday at the Betunia Crossing near Ramallah, with a first shipment of 2,000 vaccines intended for medical teams.
The rest of the expected total of 5,000 vaccines will reportedly be transferred in three more shipments.
On Friday, Ynet reported that Israel is set to deliver 5,000 COVID-19 vaccinations to the Palestinian Authority so that it may vaccinate 2,500 health care professionals.
IDF sources, according to Walla News, said Israel means to present the PA with four times as many more doses, 20,000, to be delivered in two operations of 10,000 doses in each delivery. The report linked this decision with another one, to offer the vaccination to all medical teams in the West Bank, including those serving Israelis in Jewish settlements. 

No decision has been made concerning sharing these vaccines with the Gaza Strip, according to KAN news, but chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Zvi Hauser expressed concerns that some of the vaccines would be transferred to the Gaza Strip due to relations between the PA and Gaza and called on the government to ensure that the vaccines remain in the PA, in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday.
Hauser stressed that Israel "must establish a new equation with Hamas based on humanitarian reciprocity, and its essence is to return the bodies of the victims and the abducted civilians as a condition for a humanitarian gesture on the issue of vaccines in the Gaza Strip."
"The mind does not tolerate a situation in which Hamas leaders will be vaccinated with a vaccine originating in Israel while its civilians and the bodies of its victims remain in Gaza," wrote Hauser in the letter.

Additionally, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced on Monday that the PA expects to receive 50,000 vaccinations from a number of different sources, mainly the COVAX facility coordinated by the World Health Organization, and that the vaccination campaign in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would begin in the middle of February, according to the Palestinian WAFA news agency.
Israel has been repeatedly condemned by politicians and activists for allegedly not providing coronavirus aid and vaccinations to Palestinians.
Palestinian officials have in the past two weeks made contradictory statements as to whether the PA had asked Israel for vaccines, with its Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying in one statement that Israel, as an “occupying power,” was obliged to provide vaccines to the Palestinians, while other officials stated that it had not requested vaccines from Israel and that the PA had even denied vaccines that were offered to them by Israeli NGOs.
The authority also refused medical equipment from the United Arab Emirates in May amid normalization efforts between the UAE and Israel. PA officials claimed at the time that the shipment was not coordinated with them.

Despite the claims that Israel has denied coronavirus aid to the Palestinians, Israel has provided and facilitated the delivery of international contributions of medical supplies since the beginning of the pandemic, including testing supplies and ventilators. Amid the first wave of the virus, then-UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov praised the “excellent cooperation” between Israel and the PA on fighting coronavirus on numerous occasions. 
Since 1995, when Oslo II was signed, the Palestinian Authority has had responsibility for healthcare in its areas, and that Hamas, which took over Gaza in 2007, provides its residents with health services.
Oslo II also states that “Israel and the Palestinian side will exchange information about plagues and contagious diseases, will cooperate in fighting them and develop systems to transfer medical files and documents.”
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.