Palestinians to get million Covid vaccine doses in Israel swap

Israel is to provide around one million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to the Palestinian Authority in a swap as their expiry date looms, Israeli officials said Friday.

The Palestinian Authority, based in the occupied West Bank, confirmed the delivery “in the coming days” of a million doses, without mentioning an agreement with the Jewish state.

The Palestinian health ministry said in a statement that Pfizer was behind an initiative to “accelerate the vaccination campaign”.

“Israel has signed an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, and will supply approximately one million doses of Pfizer vaccine that are about to expire,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said, in a joint statement with the defence and health ministries. 

Israel “will receive in return the doses that Pfizer is to send to the Palestinian Authority,” the statement added.

“Israel will receive the same amount of doses of Pfizer in September/October 2021, on behalf of what is destined for the Palestinian Authority,” the Israeli statement read.

The statement did not specify a use-by date for the vaccines now destined for the Palestinians.

“This agreement was made possible after noting that the stock of vaccines that Israel has in its possession meets its current needs.”

COGAT, the Israeli military body that administers civilian affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories, said Friday it had already  “transferred 100,000 vaccine doses”.

– Virus ‘knows no borders’ –

Israel launched a sweeping vaccination campaign after obtaining millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

More than 55 percent of Israel’s population — some 5.1 million people — have received both doses of the vaccine.

On the Palestinian side, just over 270,000 people have received their two doses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

From Thursday to Friday, 165 new Covid-19 cases were recorded in the West Bank and Gaza, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to more than 312,000, including around 3,540 deaths, according to health officials.

In Israel, 25 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to nearly 840,000, including more than 6,420 deaths.

“Coronavirus knows no borders and does not differentiate between people,” Nitzan Horowitz, Israel’s health minister, said on Twitter.

“This important exchange of vaccines is in the interest of each party,” he said, adding he hoped for “cooperation between Israel and its Palestinian neighbours in other areas”.

The deal comes amid high tensions between the Jewish state and the Palestinians, with violations of a fragile ceasefire between Israel and Gaza’s rulers Hamas.

The truce went into effect on May 21, ending 11 days of heavy fighting.

Late Thursday, Israeli fighter jets carried out air strikes on Gaza for a second time since the ceasefire.

The military said they were in retaliation for three days of incendiary ballons launched from the Palestinian enclave.

In Gaza, the coronavirus response has been crippled by last month’s fighting, which devastated infrastructure and reduced entire tower blocks to piles of smoking rubble.

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