Israel plans COVID shocks for Palestinian and settlement workers

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Palestinian workers gather near an Israeli checkpoint that has been closed near Hebron over fear of a second wave of COVID-19 infections

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From Rami Ayyub

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel on Sunday approved plans to offer Palestinians COVID-19 vaccines with Israeli work permits. A move that a rights group said did not go far enough to protect the Palestinians in the occupied territory.

The Palestinians have received relatively few doses so far and are way behind Israel, which vaccinated more than a third of its population in one of the fastest rollouts in the world.

After criticizing Israel for not extending its campaign to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, it agreed this month to give 5,000 to Palestinian health officials Modern (NASDAQ 🙂 Inc cans. It has passed 2,000 of them since then.

In a much larger engagement, COGAT, a branch of Israel’s Defense Ministry, said Sunday it would offer Moderna vaccines to the approximately 130,000 Palestinians who work in Israel or its West Bank settlements.

The program will begin within a few days, COGAT said.

Thousands of Palestinians working in Israel’s service and industrial sectors have already been privately vaccinated by their employers in Israel, said Shaher Saad, general secretary of the Palestinian Labor Union.

He said that under the new Israeli program, Palestinian medical teams would fire guns at military checkpoints in the West Bank.

Israel conquered the West Bank along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the Middle East War of 1967. Palestinians are looking for the areas for a future state.

Israel counts the Palestinians in East Jerusalem as part of its population and has offered them vaccines. However, it is argued that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is responsible for vaccination in Gaza and parts of the West Bank, under the Oslo Peace Accords, where it has limited self-government.

Omar Shakir, director for Israel and Palestine at Human Rights Watch, said Israel has an international legal obligation to vaccinate Palestinians who live under its effective control.

“Vaccinating only Palestinians who come into contact with Israelis confirms that Palestinian life matters to the Israeli authorities only insofar as it affects Jewish life,” Shakir said.

The West Bank and Gaza Strip, in which a total of 5.2 million Palestinians live, have received around 32,000 doses of vaccine to date – including small donations from Israel, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. They expect more doses from Russia and drug maker AstraZeneca (NASDAQ 🙂 within a few weeks.

The PA closed most schools in the West Bank on Sunday to prevent a surge in coronavirus variant infections. According to official data, intensive care units for COVID-19 patients have reached 95% occupancy in the area.

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