Israel to send Palestine 1m vaccine doses

Israel has faced criticism for not sharing vaccines with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel has faced criticism for not sharing vaccines with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israel says it will transfer around one million doses of soon-to-expire Pfizer coronavirus vaccine doses to the Palestinian Authority.

Under the agreement announced on Friday, the Palestinians will reciprocate by transferring doses to Israel once it receives them from a UN-backed program to supply vaccines to needy countries.

Israel, which has vaccinated some 85 per cent of its adult population, has faced criticism for not sharing its vaccines with the 4.5 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

The agreement was announced by the new Israeli government led by Naftali Bennett that was sworn in on Sunday.

There was no immediate comment from the Palestinian Authority.

Israel has carried out one of the most successful vaccination programs in the world, allowing it to fully reopen businesses and schools.

This week, authorities in the country lifted the requirement to wear masks in public, one of the last remaining restrictions.

Rights groups have said Israel, as an occupying power, is obliged to provide vaccines to the Palestinians.

Israel denies having such an obligation, pointing to interim peace agreements reached with the Palestinians in the 1990s.

Those agreements say the Palestinian Authority, which has limited autonomy in parts of the occupied West Bank, is responsible for health care but that the two sides should co-operate to combat pandemics.

Israel has offered vaccines to the more than 100,000 Palestinians from the occupied West Bank who work inside Israel, as well as those in east Jerusalem.

Gaza is ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organisation by Israel and many Western countries.

Israeli officials have suggested linking any supply of vaccines to Gaza to the return of two Israeli captives and the remains of two Israeli soldiers held by Hamas.

The Palestinian Authority has said it is acquiring its own supplies through agreements with private companies and a World Health Organization program designed to aid needy countries.

To date, around 380,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and around 50,000 in Gaza have been vaccinated.

More than 300,000 infections have been recorded in the two territories, with 3545 deaths.

Australian Associated Press