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Israel: Supreme Court petition calls for Palestinians to get vaccine

March 26, 2021 at 3:12 pm

COVID-19 vaccine in Bethlehem, West Bank on 3 February 2021 [Hisham K. K. Abu Shaqra/Anadolu Agency]

A group of six Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups have appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court to demand that the state should provide vaccines to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“The Covid-19 morbidity and mortality rates in the West Bank and Gaza are increasing dramatically but the vaccine supply to Palestinians so far covers less than 1.5 per cent of the population,” explained Physicians for Human Rights Israel. “The government’s current policy and failure to ensure that the entire population is vaccinated violates Palestinian inhabitants’ basic rights to life and bodily integrity, and represents an ongoing injustice.”

Joining Physicians for Human Rights Israel in the petition to the court were HaMoked: Centre for the Defence of the Individual; Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights; Gisha – Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement; Adalah: The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel; and Rabbis for Human Rights.

The legal move was made amid concerns of a spike in coronavirus infections in the occupied Palestinian territories. The West Bank was placed under new restrictive measures earlier this month to curb the surge in infections.

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The petition argues that the Palestinian Authority “has an insufficient number of vaccines, whereas in what is practically the same area, the population of Israeli citizens and residents is almost fully vaccinated, apart from those who decline it.”

Indeed, Israel has started to ease pandemic lockdown restrictions, opening restaurants, bars and cafes. More than half of the population has been given two doses of the vaccine, the Israeli health minister announced yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Minister of Health, Mai Al-Kaila, recorded 1,511 new Covid-19 cases and 16 deaths in occupied Palestine today. She said that 14 deaths occurred in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and two were in the besieged Gaza Strip.

In closing, the human rights groups pointed out that the Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank are filled to capacity. “Some of them have stopped admitting cancer patients from the Gaza Strip who require urgent and lifesaving treatment,” they added.