An initial batch of 1,000 coronavirus vaccine doses donated by Russia will enter Gaza on Wednesday, Israel’s defence ministry told AFP, after it had blocked a shipment earlier this week.
The Sputnik V doses were “being transferred from the Palestinian Authority (in the West Bank) to the Gaza Strip in accordance with the PA’s request and the approval of the (Israeli) political echelon”, said the Israeli military department responsible for civil affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories (COGAT).
It added that “the vaccine shipment is now making its way to the Erez crossing” that connects Israel to the blockaded Gaza Strip, a enclave which is controlled by the Islamist group Hamas.
Both the PA and Hamas, which have said the doses will be given to frontline healthcare workers, had condemned Israel for refusing to allow the shipment to enter Gaza on Monday.
The PA called on the World Health Organization to “condemn Israel” for the obstruction and urged it “to hold (Israel) fully responsible for the dangers arising from preventing the entry of vaccines into the Gaza Strip.”
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem had blasted Israel’s blockage as a “violation of all international laws and humanitarian standards.”
COGAT said on Monday that a political decision was required before it could allow vaccines to enter Gaza, where Israel has fought three wars against Hamas, which took control of the enclave in 2007.
The PA is expecting some two million doses ordered from various manufacturers, in addition to vaccines from the UN-backed Covax programme, set up to help less wealthy nations procure vaccines.
The PA has said it will share its procurement with Hamas.