Human Rights Watch has called on ‘Israel’ to provide COVID-19 vaccines to more than 4.5 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In a statement released on Sunday, the New York-based rights group said that ‘Israel’ must fulfill its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention to ensure medical supplies which it said are “heightened after more than 50 years of occupation with no end in sight.”
“Israeli authorities should provide Covid-19 vaccines to the more than 4.5 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. While Israel has already vaccinated more than 20 percent of its citizens, including Jewish settlers in the West Bank, it has not committed to vaccinate Palestinians living in the same occupied territory under its military rule,” HRW said.
It added, “These responsibilities, alongside its obligations under international human rights law, include providing vaccines in a nondiscriminatory manner to Palestinians living under its control, using as a benchmark what it provides for its own citizens. The Palestinian authorities’ own obligations to protect the right to health of Palestinians in areas where they manage affairs do not absolve Israel of its responsibilities.”
Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, also called on ‘Israel’ to give the Palestinians equitable access to the vaccine, regardless of their ethnicity.
“Nothing can justify today’s reality in parts of the West Bank, where people on one side of the street are receiving vaccines, while those on the other do not, based on whether they’re Jewish or Palestinian,” said Omar Shakir.
He added, “Everyone in the same territory should have equitable access to the vaccine, regardless of their ethnicity.”
Israel vaccinating at world's fastest rate, yet excludes 4.5 mill Palestinians living under its control. In parts of West Bank, receipt of vaccine depends on if you're Jewish or Palestinian. @hrw on Israel's duty to provide vaccine to occupied Palestinians https://t.co/qMPWHE4i79 pic.twitter.com/BYqWT0t0qg
— Omar Shakir (@OmarSShakir) January 18, 2021
“The Fourth Geneva Convention obliges Israel, as the occupying power, to ensure the medical supplies of the [occupied] population, including adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics to the fullest extent of the means available to it,” HRW said.
“Israel remains the occupying power in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza under international humanitarian law, given the extent of its control over borders, the movement of people and goods, security, taxation, and registry of the population, among other areas.”
‘Israel’ is leading the world in the global vaccination race, urging the world to follow its rapid vaccine rollout.
More than a million Israelis, some 12 percent of the ‘Israeli’ population, receive the vaccination in less than two weeks – the highest rate in the world.
About 19% of Israel’s 8.9 million population has received a dose of the vaccine, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker.
As of 3 January 2021, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 159,034 Palestinians in the OPT, including East Jerusalem, have so far tested positive for coronavirus since the first confirmed case was reported in March 2020.
There have been nearly 1,600 deaths related to COVID-19 among Palestinians in the OPT since the beginning of the pandemic.