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Hamas launches COVID vaccinations in Gaza

By AFP - Feb 23,2021 - Last updated at Feb 23,2021

A Palestinian man receives a dose of the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Gaza City, on Monday (AFP photo)

GAZA, Palestinian Territories — A coronavirus vaccination campaign was launched in Gaza on  Monday using doses provided by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the United Arab Emirates, with health workers set to be inoculated first.

The first jab in the Israeli-blockaded territory controlled by Hamas Islamists since 2007 was symbolically given to former Palestinian health minister Riyad Zaanoun at a clinic in Gaza City.

"Priority is being given to medical staff working on the front line in the pandemic, then to sick elderly people", Medhat Muheisen, a Hamas health ministry official, told reporters.

On Sunday, around 20,000 doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine arrived in Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, meaning they did not pass through Israel.

That delivery was organised by Mohammed Dahlan, a former senior Palestinian Authority figure who broke with President Mahmoud Abbas and now lives in exile in Abu Dhabi.

The PA, led by Abbas' Fateh movement, earlier this month delivered 2,000 doses Sputnik V doses to Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing that connects Israel to the strip.

Israel had earlier blocked a PA vaccine shipment from entering Gaza.

Israel's military branch responsible for civil affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories said a "political" decision was required before a vaccine delivery could be allowed into the enclave where Israel has waged three aggressions against Hamas since 2008.

Israel's obstruction was condemned as an international crime by the PA and Hamas, while the UN has called on Israel, currently the world leader in vaccinations per capita, to ensure Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are inoculated.

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