Gaza receives first Covid-19 vaccines after Israel delayed shipment



Gaza received its first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines on Wednesday after Israel approved the transfer through its border with the Hamas Islamist-runterritory, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.

Israel has faced international criticism for largely excluding Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza from its highly successful vaccination campaign. It held up the shipment for two days as the government faced questioning from a parliamentary committee before ultimately approving it.

On Wednesday, Palestinian Health Minister Mai Alkaila said in a statement that the Palestinian Authority (PA) sent 2,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine to the Hamas-controlled enclave.

The shipment finally arrived midday Wednesday at the Kerem Shalom crossing.

The dispute highlights the Palestinians’ reliance on Israel even as they struggle to combat the pandemic on their own. It’s also a potent example of global inequality in the rollout of vaccines, most of which have been scooped up by wealthy countries.

Gaza is home to more than 2 million Palestinians, many of whom live in close confines. It has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas, an Islamic militant group, seized power from PA forces in 2007. Gaza’s health ministry has reported more than 53,000 cases and at least 538 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Israeli lawmakers debate while Gaza awaits vaccines

Israeli lawmakers had debated whether to allow the delivery of vaccines into Gaza.

Some had argued that the delivery should be linked to progress on the release of two Israeli captives held by Hamas and the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in a 2014 war with Palestinian militants.

They have also expressed concern that vaccines would go to Hamas members rather than medics.

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