Israel has said will begin administering the Covid-19 vaccine in prisons, including among Palestinian detainees.
The inclusion of Palestinian prisoners in the inoculation drive comes despite Tel Aviv’s wider refusal to immunize Palestinians in the occupied West Bank against the novel coronavirus.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told reporters on Thursday that the country would begin vaccinating inmates aged over 55 next week.
"Israel's health minister announced Thursday the country would vaccinate #Palestinian prisoners against #COVID19, after Israel's president said withholding vaccines was against Israel's Jewish and democratic values." https://t.co/JYmeMZ3zpp
— Linda Hemby (@LindaHemby) January 14, 2021
Public Security Minister Amir Ohana had earlier called on officials to refrain from immunizing prisoners, saying that only prison guards should be administered the vaccine.
Edelstein’s comments follow criticism of Ohana’s remarks by President Reuben Rivlin, who said refusing to vaccinate inmates would be “inconsistent” with Israeli values.
More than 4,000 Palestinians are currently held in Israeli prisons, according to official data.
Ramzy Baroud's 'These Chains Will be Broken' offers readers a greater understanding that could not be possible earlier given the severely restricted environment that Palestinian detainees are faced withhttps://t.co/X6j62Dqbdm
— Rima Najjar (@rima123) April 16, 2020
Israel’s immunization drive has been the subject of much discussion internationally, with many countries praising its speed and efficiency.
However, the government’s rejection of claims it has a responsibility to vaccinate Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip has prompted fierce condemnation from rights groups and activists.
United Nations Special Rapporteurs Michael Lynk and Tlaleng Mofokeng have said that Israel, as an occupying power, has a responsibility to help combat epidemics under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Five human rights organizations submitted a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court against the decision of the Israeli Minister of Internal Security, Amir Ohana, not to vaccinate Palestinian prisoners with the Coronavirus vaccine. https://t.co/gOz9CFSyUi
— Samidoun (@SamidounPP) January 13, 2021
“More than 4.5 million Palestinians will remain unprotected and exposed to Covid-19, while Israeli citizens living near and among them – including the Israeli settler population – will be vaccinated. Morally and legally, this differential access to necessary health care in the midst of the worst global health crisis in a century is unacceptable,” the UN experts said in a statement on Thursday.
“We are particularly concerned about the deteriorating health situation in Gaza, which suffers from a 13-year-old blockade, serious water and electricity shortages, and endemic poverty and unemployment,” the statement continued.
Israel last week rejected pleas from the World Health Organization to make the COVID-19 jab available to Palestinian health workers at least, The Independent reported.