Blinken asks for Israeli help in facilitating COVID-19 vaccines to the Palestinians

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi in a phone call on Monday to facilitate the transfer of COVID-19 vaccines to the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday, the Israeli prime minister’s office announced that ‘Israel’ has decided to send a “symbolic amount” of vaccines to the Palestinian Authority and to several countries that have asked for assistance.

The prime minister’s office also said the Palestinians will get several thousand vaccine doses for medical teams.

A similar number of doses will be given to several other countries like Honduras, which sent a plane to pick up the vaccines.

The vaccines will be taken from a supply of 100,000 Moderna doses that ‘Israel’ purchased but hasn’t yet used.

This comes after ‘Israel’ faced wide criticism following banning the entry of shipment of Sputnik V vaccines from Russia and not giving the Palestinians access to the vaccines.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a Zoom speech at the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council on Monday that Israel has refused to give vaccines to the Palestinians or even allow vaccine shipments from abroad to enter the West Bank and Gaza.

‘Israel’ has been criticised for not giving Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza strip access to the vaccine while it has been praised for its swift vaccine rollout.

‘Israel’ has said that half the population received COVID-19 vaccines.

Today, 34.62% of Israel’s population is fully vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University while it excluded the nearly 5 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, under Israeli military occupation.

To date, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, there have been nearly 2200 deaths related to COVID-19 among Palestinians in the OPT since the beginning of the pandemic, 545 of them in the Gaza strip. 87580 Palestinians have been infected with the virus.

Last month, ‘Israel’ agreed to transfer only 5,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the Palestinians to immunize just the front-line medical workers.

Last week, ‘Israel’ allowed the Palestinians to send the first shipment of 1,000 COVID-19 vaccines donated by Russia to the besieged Gaza Strip, after it banned the entry of the shipment earlier in the same week.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that 2,000 doses of the Russian ‘Sputnik V’ vaccine were supposed to enter Gaza Strip last week, however, ‘Israel’, allowed the entry of only 1000 doses, which has a population of about 2 million.

Under the fourth Geneva Convention, ‘Israel’, as an occupying power, is obligated to provide Palestinians with the vaccines, as the occupying forces are responsible for providing healthcare to the population of the occupied area.

Most states as well as the United Nations Security Council, the United Nations General Assembly, the International Court of Justice, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, consider ‘Israel’ to be an occupying power.

The UN, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and many other human rights organizations have called on ‘Israel’ to help make vaccines available to the Palestinians, saying ‘Israel’ is obligated to do so under international law.

“The Israeli government must stop ignoring its international obligations as an occupying power and immediately act to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are equally and fairly provided to Palestinians living under its occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” said Amnesty International.

“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,” said HRW.

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