Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90
PA Health Ministry crew testing Arabs in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, January 14, 2021.

IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi and Defense Minister Benny Gantz (Blue&White) are expected to approve in the coming days a request submitted by the Palestinian Authority for the transfer of tens of thousands of vaccine doses to the Gaza Strip, Walla reported Sunday.

PA officials have contacted Israeli security and NSC officials for approval and assistance in transferring the packages they have purchased or received, and they will most likely receive a positive response, seeing as the Israeli military apparatus has been worried about the high morbidity in the Gaza Strip which it fears could result in a security escalation.

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The expected decision coincides with a petition filed with the High Court of Justice by the family of Lt. Hadar Goldin demanding that the state not transmit vaccines to Gaza until the bodies of two Israeli soldiers and two living Israeli civilians who are held by Hamas are returned.

Initially, the state told the court that it did not intend at all to transfer vaccines to the PA or Hamas. But then the news came out that Israel had transferred 100 vaccine doses intended for older medical professionals working with Corona patients in the Palestinian Authority. The state later announced that a shipment of 5,000 Russian vaccines, donated by the Russian government, had been transferred to the PA for healthcare workers in the PA and Gaza.

According to senior IDF officials, thousands of vaccines purchased by Israel have so far been handed over to the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria. The new request that was sent to Israel a few days ago relates to vaccines that the Palestinian Authority had purchased with its own money or received as a donation from the World Health Organization, the European Union, and Russia.

“Israel has approved and assisted in the various waves of the corona to transfer medical equipment to hospitals in the Gaza Strip,” senior officers familiar with the details of the operation told Walla. They added that “corona vaccines are no different from regular medicine or flu vaccines.”

To date, more than 50,000 Arabs in the PA and Gaza have been infected with the Corona, hundreds have died and about 50 are hospitalized in critical condition. But the IDF estimates that the number of infected and dead is much higher since most Arabs in the Gaza Strip are reluctant to be tested and even if they wanted to – there are not enough test kits available.

Meanwhile, according to WAFA, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority’s Detainees and Ex-Detainees Commission Qadri Abu Bakr tested positive for COVID-19. A commission press release said Abu Bakr developed some symptoms including fatigue and dry coughing and tested positive. The commission wishes him a speedy recovery and called on all those who had come into contact with him to undergo the necessary tests.

Two months ago, the PA health ministry applied to Israel’s health ministry for vaccinations for medical staff in Judea and Samaria. Following a round of consultations, the defense minister approved delivering hundreds of vaccines to the PA. In the second phase, thousands of vaccines were shipped, mostly to prevent an infestation through the daily movement of workers from the PA into Israel.

Hamas boss Yahya Sinwar / Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90

The Southern Command is closely monitoring the morbidity situation in the Gaza Strip, fearing that the spread of the virus in the Gaza Strip could lead to a security escalation. A few months ago, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar warned that if there were an outbreak of Corona in Gaza and Israel disrupted the flow of medical aid there, “it would have security consequences.”

Senior military officials said a few weeks ago that if the Arab public criticized Hamas and the PA as a result of a lack of vaccines, Israel would be blamed. The same military sources added that “this could be reflected in public criticism and also in rockets. This is how they attract worldwide attention and put pressure on decision-makers.”

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.