New West Bank lockdown as Palestinians face surge of coronavirus cases

World

A new lockdown has been imposed across the West Bank as Palestinians face a fresh surge of coronavirus cases and a continued wait for a proper vaccine rollout.

The Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh announced the 12-day shutdown late on Saturday and blamed it on the struggle to get vaccines delivered to the territory.

In the last 24 hours there have been 910 new cases and five deaths in the West Bank.

Palestinian PM announcing the lockdown
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Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh announcing the lockdown

To date Palestinians in the West Bank have received 10,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik vaccine.

A separate delivery of 20,000 Russian vaccines has been delivered to the other Palestinian territory, Gaza.

The Covax scheme, the global initiative to get vaccines to poorer nations, has yet to provide any for Palestinians but a delivery is expected this week.

Israel has now vaccinated half of its population but has only provided 2,000 jabs to the West Bank.

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The huge imbalance has added a new dynamic to the decades long Israel-Palestine conflict and put focus on Israel’s obligations as an occupying power.

Last month, Israel’s Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told Sky News that it was in the country’s interest to ensure the Palestinian population is vaccinated.

Palestinian health workers being vaccinated earlier this month
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Palestinian health workers being vaccinated earlier this month

But asked if Israel would provide the vaccine to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, Mr Edelstein said it would only happen once Israel’s population is vaccinated.

“We definitely will consider that but as I’ve said, I sincerely hope that by that time, part of their population will be vaccinated by different vaccines that they are trying to purchase. If any other help will be needed, we will offer.”

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Will COVID jab get to occupied territories?

Israeli officials have constantly said that Palestinians, who have limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank and all of Gaza, are responsible for their own health system under agreements made in the Oslo peace accords of the 1990s.

However, an annex of the Oslo Accords, which were only meant to be a temporary route to full Palestinian statehood, also calls for co-operation to combat epidemics.

Palestinian health workers being vaccinated earlier this month
Image:
The West Bank has received 10,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik vaccine

Human rights groups also cite the Fourth Geneva Convention which says occupying powers are obliged, as far as possible, to take responsibility for the public health of people living under occupation.

Under the West Bank lockdown, schools, universities and non-essential shops will all be shut.

All movement will also be restricted during night-time hours.

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