Israel: An internationally led effort is planned to vaccinate thousands of traders in the Gaza Strip against coronavirus so that they can cross the border into Israel and travel to the West Bank, the daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Tuesday, citing diplomatic sources.
Israel is said to be willing to work with the idea, which will vaccinate traders by teams of doctors from abroad on special sites set up on the Israeli side of the Erez border crossing. According to the report, the doctors are probably from an international aid organization.
The report states that Israel will approve such a plan as part of the ongoing arrangements with the Hamas terrorist group, which rules Gaza.
Qatar is said to be financing the purchase of 14,000 units of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that will be used to vaccinate 7,000 traders, who would travel to Gaza regularly from the Gaza Strip to the COVID-19 pandemic by crossing Israel .
Following the outbreak of the virus, the pedestrian border crossing between Gaza and Israel was closed, preventing traders from continuing their operations, causing a significant impact on the already faltering economy in Gaza.
Vaccination of the traders would come along with the Palestinians’ own vaccination efforts in Gaza and the West Bank. The Pfizer vaccine is the same that Israel uses for its own vaccination process.
Gaza has seen a recent spate of virus cases apparently caused by the British variant of the coronavirus, and the daily number of new infections is expected to reach 1,000 this week among the population of about 2 million, Yedioth reports.
By comparison, in Israel, where a successful vaccination program has already succeeded in immunizing more than half of the population of about 9.5 million, daily cases have dropped to the low hundreds.
Israel has faced calls from rights groups and figures in the international community to help vaccinate Palestinians. Human rights groups and the Palestinian Authority have criticized the fact that Israeli West Bank residents have been vaccinated, but not the Palestinians.
Last week, several rights groups filed a petition with the Supreme Court demanding that Israel take action to ensure the vaccination of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, including by handing over the surplus of its own vaccine supplies. They argue that Israel, as an occupying power, is obligated to ensure the health of those it rules.
Israeli officials said the Palestinians were responsible for vaccinating their own people under the 1993 Oslo Accords between the two parties, although some officials said Israel would consider giving doses once all Israelis were vaccinated.
The Palestinian Authority has independently contracted with several suppliers – including AstraZeneca, Russia and China – to obtain doses, but very few showed up.
The PA’s vaccination campaign was launched this month following the delivery of thousands of vaccines through the UN’s Covax program for poorer countries.
The PA announced that it began vaccinating the elderly over 75 and some medical patients on March 21 after receiving 60,000 vaccine doses through Covax.
More than 20,000 of the doses were transferred to Gaza. An additional 60,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine were delivered to Gaza from the United Arab Emirates, in shipments mediated by a former PA top official currently banned in Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Dahlan.
Covax also promised doses to vaccinate another million Palestinians.