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OPINION: Israel violates international law by blocking vaccines to Gaza

OPINION

The blockade of vaccines destined for healthcare workers in the Gaza Strip by the apartheid Israel is one of the biggest atrocities that have not received the attention it deserves and it continues unabated due to the deafening silence of the international community. Israel has stopped 1,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine that are intended for frontline healthcare workers from entering the besieged Gaza Strip.

Authorities in the Gaza Strip have reported more than 53,000 COVID-19 infections and at least 537 deaths since the start of the pandemic, while nearly 115,000 coronavirus cases have been reported in the West Bank, including nearly 1,400 deaths. Loss of life will continue unabated if vaccines are not allowed to enter the occupied territories.

Currently, the apartheid state of Israel is undertaking one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns per capita and even plans to share small quantities of its surplus Israeli vaccines with allied nations but none will go to occupied Palestinian people.

As an occupying power, apartheid Israel has vehemently refused to share its stocks with Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Furthermore, it has deemed it fit to block vaccines destined for frontline workers citing that it might be used by senior Hamas officials instead of healthcare workers. The withholding of essential healthcare is war crime and a violation of all international laws and humanitarian standards.

READ: Hamas launches COVD-19 vaccinations in Gaza
Most of Palestinian healthcare infrastructure has been demolished by countless Israel military attacks, hence the outbreak of the novel coronavirus has put a huge strain on the Palestinian healthcare system and economy. The blockade of the vaccines creates extra added difficulties and challenges for the Palestinians to decisively deal with the coronavirus.

Apartheid Israel has never cared for the lives of Palestinians and the outbreak of the coronavirus has further highlighted the sheer disregard for the lives of the Palestinian people. The situation in Gaza has been made worsened by shortages of medicines, water and electricity supply, due to Israeli blockades.

The outbreak of the virus has exacerbated the problems faced by the people of Gaza. The virus has been spreading very rapidly considering that 70% of the population are refugees who live in overcrowded refugee camps across the region.

The blockade by apartheid Israel has been a huge danger not only to the people but also public health, which has been struggling with medical supplies. As an occupying power, the Israeli government has failed to ensure that the occupied territories have adequate medical supplies, including a comprehensive plan on infection control and prevention.

The allowing of apartheid Israel to flout international laws and gross human rights violations have been tolerated for far too long and must be brought to an end for the benefit of the people of Palestine, which have been at the receiving end of Israeli aggression for decades.

The international community should continue to aggressively denounce the unilateral annexation of Palestinian land and more pressure must be exerted on apartheid Israel to refrain from carrying out its unjust plan.

More support must be given to the campaign to demand the freedom of Palestinian children jailed in Israeli prisons by the Israeli government. By doing so, we will be seeking to create a more just world for all.

Mike Shingange is the first deputy president of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu).

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