Israel/virus: Palestinian prisoners to be vaccinated (authorities)

Israeli prison authorities announced on Sunday the rapid vaccination against Covid-19 of all its prisoners, including Palestinians, after repeated demands from the judiciary, NGOs and Palestinian officials.

Israeli Minister of Public Security Amir Ohana recently suggested that prisoners should not be vaccinated against coronavirus at a time when the Hebrew state accelerates its vaccination campaign. These comments were criticized by the Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, who found the measure โ€œillegalโ€ according to the local press.

Palestinian officials and NGOs had called on Israel to vaccinate the approximately 4,400 Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons, of which at least 250 were tested positive for Covid-19, according to data from the Palestinian Prisoners Club.

On Sunday, the Israeli prison authorities said in a statement โ€œthat after the vaccination of staff (…) the vaccinations of prisoners will begin in prisons in accordance with the medical and operational protocol established by the prison authorityโ€.

โ€œThis applies to all prisoners without distinction,โ€ a spokesman for the prison administration told AFP, adding that vaccination of prisoners should begin this week.

โ€œThe occupation (term used by Palestinians to name Israel) has an obligation to provide vaccines to prisoners,โ€ Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told AFP. The Palestinian Islamist movement, in power in the Gaza Strip, accuses the Israeli authorities of โ€œdeliberate negligenceโ€.

On Sunday, Human Rights Watch called on Israel to vaccinate Palestinian detainees and argued that it even had an โ€œobligationโ€ โ€” because of international humanitarian law and as the โ€œoccupyingโ€ Power โ€” to โ€œsupplyโ€ vaccines to Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, the Occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

โ€œNothing can justify todays reality in parts of the West Bank where people are receiving vaccines, and others not, depending on whether they are Jewish or Palestinian,โ€ Omar Shakir, a leader of the organization referring to the Jewish settlers in the West Bank who are vaccinated.

Israel, which purchased vaccines from Pfizer-Biontech and Moderna, launched its vaccination campaign in mid-December and accelerated its pace with today more than two million people receiving a first dose, but not foreseen for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority reported that it signed four vaccine purchase contracts, including Russian Sputnik V, covering 70% of the West Bank and Gaza residents. These vaccines must be delivered by mid-March.