Israel on Wednesday allowed the shipment of the first 1,000 doses of vaccine against the coronavirus that the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) sent to the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, which had been blocked since Monday.
"The delivery of the vaccines is on its way to the Strip," an Israeli security source confirmed to Efe about the transfer of the vaccines between the two territorially separate Palestinian areas whose borders Israel controls.
The West Bank-based PNA initially intended to deliver 2,000 of the 10,000 doses of Sputnik, donated by Russia, but Israel delayed the permits, while Israeli MPs demanded that the delivery be conditional on the return of two civilians and the bodies of two soldiers held in the Strip.
Local organisations condemned Israel's making the "blockade of humanitarian access" conditional on "political" decisions and described the delay as "collective punishment".
The vaccines are scheduled to be administered to health workers in the coastal enclave, which has been under the de facto control of the Islamist movement, Hamas, since 2007 when the Israeli blockade began.
The new UN Middle East envoy, Tor Wennesland, had previously called on the Israeli government to contribute to the campaign to vaccinate the Palestinian population under occupation "in line with its obligations under international law".
Palestinian authorities in the West Bank have so far received 2,000 doses from Israel to vaccinate medical workers and Gaza is due to receive the first consignment of vaccines today.
In addition, the PNA is expecting another 37,000 doses of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) free COVAX mechanism, which should arrive in the coming weeks, and has also announced an agreement with the UK's AstraZeneca to receive two million more.