NEW YORK, Jan 18 (APP): A prominent international human rights watchdog body has called on the Israeli authorities to provide coronavirus vaccines to the more than 4.5 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In a statement, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Israel must carry out its obligations, as the “occupying power,” under the Fourth Geneva Convention to ensure provision of medical supplies.
The need for the supply, it said, has gone up “after more than 50 years of occupation with no end in sight.”
“While Israel has already vaccinated more than 20 percent of its citizens, including Jewish settlers in the West Bank, it has not committed to vaccinating Palestinians living in the same occupied territory under its military rule,” the HRW said.
“These responsibilities, alongside its obligations under international human rights law, include providing vaccines in a nondiscriminatory manner to Palestinians living under its control, using as a benchmark what it provides for its own citizens.”
On January 7, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the acceleration of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign to ensure that it is completed by the end of March.
“The fact that Israeli citizens, including settlers in the West Bank, are receiving vaccines at one of the most rapid rates in the world indicates that Israel has the ability to provide the vaccines to at least some Palestinians in the occupied territory, but has chosen to leave them unprotected,” the HRW said.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the number of coronavirus cases has exceeded 170,000, including 1861 deaths, since March.
On Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced that his government has taken “all financial and administrative measures in order to obtain the first batch” of the vaccine, without giving further details on the date of its arrival.