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Vaccination rate highlights striking differences between Israelis and Palestinians amid disputes over responsibility



Both are Palestinian residents of Kafr Aqaba, a soil in a territory that under Israeli law is part of larger Jerusalem, but is considered illegally annexed by international law after it was captured by Jordan in 1967.

It is also surrounded by Jerusalem by Israel’s giant concrete security wall. Jewish Israelis rarely come here except in uniform to conduct military raids.

Mahmoud Oude, like thousands of other residents of the city, has a Palestinian identity document. His friend Annan Abu Aisha has an Israeli certificate that identifies him as a permanent resident of East Jerusalem. This entitles him to join the world’s leading vaccination campaign in Israel, which is on track to meet the government̵

7;s goal of inoculating the entire country by the end of March.

But at least 4.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza have been abandoned. So far, no one has had injections and most are unlikely to receive them soon – because there is no Covid-19 vaccination campaign in the Palestinian territories.

So if Annan gets the vaccine and goes on with his friend, cuts and sells meat from carcasses of goats and cows swinging from hooks in the store, he says he will feel guilty.

“Half the people here can’t take it, so I won’t take it either, why take it when they can’t? No,” he told CNN.

“This is racist,” Mahmoud added.

According to UN experts, the immunization policy that distinguishes between those with Israeli ID cards and those without them is “unacceptable.”

The UN expert report says that Israel is the occupying power in and over Gaza and the West Bank and has been since 1967 and is thus responsible for the health of those living under occupation.

According to an expert report released by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Israel needs to expand its vaccination campaign to all Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

A Palestinian health worker tests a woman for Covid-19 in the West Bank village of Dura, southwest of Hebron, on January 8, 2021.
Experts said that as an occupying power, Israel is required under the Fourth Geneva Convention, “to the fullest extent available,” to maintain health services in the occupied territory. Article 56 requires Israel to adopt and implement “the preventive and preventive measures necessary to combating the spread of communicable diseases and epidemics “in cooperation with national and local authorities,” the human rights body said in a statement.

Experts also said: “4.5 million Palestinians will remain unprotected and exposed to Covid-19 while Israeli citizens living nearby and among them – including Israeli settlers – will be vaccinated. Morally and legally this different access to necessary health care in the midst of the worst global health crisis of a century are unacceptable. ”

But as Israel’s vaccination campaign climbs more than 20% of the Israeli population (including residents of East Jerusalem), this is not a feature that Israeli Health Minister Juli Edelstein accepts.

“Our calculation was based on Israeli citizens. If we come to a situation where everyone in the country who wants to be vaccinated is vaccinated, we will be more than ready to share the vaccines with our neighbors,” Edelstein told CNN.

“At this point, we’re talking about Israeli citizens … I haven’t heard of any obligation from Israel to pay for vaccines for anyone else.”

The Israeli government cites the Oslo Accords signed in the mid-1990s with the Palestine Liberation Organization, which led to the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The first of these agreements includes a clause that assigns the PA responsibility for the health of all Palestinians under its civilian administration.

Experts acknowledge that it is not a direct task that seeks to orient itself between the responsibilities assigned by Oslo, which was not a final status agreement, and the obligations set out in the Geneva Conventions.

In an interview with CNN, Edelstein defined the decision in terms of interests, not obligations.

“At this stage, we do not supply vaccines, but we understand that it is in Israel’s interest to make sure that we do not find ourselves in a situation where we are vaccinated and then get out of this trouble, and there is another Palestinian side. a jump in numbers, “Edelstein added.

The rate at which people with confirmed Covid-19 die in the Palestinian territories and East Jerusalem (1.1%) is higher than in Israel (0.7%), but significantly lower than in the United States (1.7%). %) and the United Kingdom (2.6%), according to the World Health Organization.

PA Health Minister Dr Mai Al-Kaileh says they expect to receive the Covid-19 vaccine by the end of March, but no date has been set for their arrival. The ministry says it has signed a contract with four companies producing the vaccine. These vaccines will cover 70% of the Palestinian population, and the World Health Organization will provide 20% to the ministry, “the PA said in a statement on January 9.

At Ramallah Public Central Hospital, medics treat coronavirus patients around the clock in Covid’s intensive care unit alone. Just like in many other hospitals around the world, non-specialist staff has been recruited to help deal with the pandemic. But after a long lock, the admissions drop and on the day of CNN’s visits, the ICU is not full.

Dr. Wafa Shihade, a regular surgeon, has been working in Covid-19’s wards for months. He says he has seen many of his colleagues succumb to the infection and spread it to their families.

“We are starting to feel depressed because we are not getting the vaccines here in the Palestinian territories,” he said. “And on the other side of the border, Israel … I think about 1,600,000 people were vaccinated three days ago, and here in Palestine the number of vaccinated is zero.”

Abeer Salman contributed to this report.


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