Following media reports about Israel linking the entry of COVID-19 vaccines into Gaza with the release of an Israeli soldier, Israeli rights group Gisha-Maslak stressed that the entry of vaccines "must not" be conditional.
In a statement posted on its website, Gisha-Maslak announced: "The health and human rights of the Palestinian population, including access to medicine, medical treatment, and vaccines, must not, under any circumstances, be made conditional on the outcome of negotiations or political maneuvering of any kind."
The rights group added: "Over the course of 2021, people and communities across the world hope that restrictions on travel and commerce are removed, so that life can return to normal. Gisha calls on Israel to fulfill its duty to protect the health and safety of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory."
It reiterated: "Only an end to the occupation can ensure full protection of rights," urging that Israel: "Must ensure that the coronavirus vaccine is available and distributed swiftly, and, where necessary, contributing to covering the costs of the vaccine and its distribution."
The rights group also asserted that Israel must lift: "The closure on the Gaza Strip to enable the proper functioning of its economy and healthcare system in face of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as meeting its obligation to the civilian population of the strip as a whole."
Ending its statement, Gisha-Maslak pressed for Israel to work: "In close cooperation with all relevant actors, Palestinian and international, for the safety and well-being of all residents of the region."
It affirmed that the involvement of the Palestinian Authority and international parties in affording the vaccine: "Does not absolve Israel from its ultimate responsibility toward Palestinians living under occupation." Gisha-Maslak emphasised: "Israel must unconditionally contribute to covering the cost of the vaccine and its distribution when needed."