A coronavirus vaccination campaign was launched in Gaza Monday using doses provided by the Palestinian Authority and the United Arab Emirates, with health workers set to be inoculated first.
The first jab in the Israeli-blockaded territory controlled by Hamas Islamists since 2007 was symbolically given to former Palestinian health minister Riyad Zaanoun at a clinic in Gaza City.
“Priority is being given to medical staff working on the front line in the pandemic, then to sick elderly people,” Medhat Muheisen, a Hamas health ministry official, told reporters.
On Sunday, around 20,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine arrived in Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, meaning they did not pass through Israel.
That delivery was organised by Mohammed Dahlan, a former senior Palestinian Authority figure who broke with president Mahmud Abbas and now lives in exile in Abu Dhabi.
The delivery orchestrated by Dahlan, currently a security adviser to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, was seen as a political move ahead of Palestinian legislative polls in May and presidential elections in July.
Analysts say Dahlan might seek to work against the pro-Abbas camp in the vote, the first Palestinian polls since 2006.
The PA, led by Abbas’s Fatah movement, earlier this month delivered 2,000 doses Sputnik V doses to Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing that connects Israel to the strip.
Israel had earlier blocked a PA vaccine shipment from entering Gaza.
Israel’s military branch responsible for civil affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories said a “political” decision was required before a vaccine delivery could be allowed into the enclave where Israel has fought three wars against Hamas since 2008.
Israel’s obstruction was condemned as an international crime by the PA and Hamas, while the UN has called on the Jewish state, currently the world leader in vaccinations per capita, to ensure Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are inoculated.