Approximately 20,000 UAE doses of coronavirus vaccine arrived in Gaza on Sunday, a delivery reportedly orchestrated by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ rival three months before the planned Palestinian elections.
AFP reporters said the Russian-made doses of Sputnik V entered Gaza via the Rafah crossing with Egypt, meaning they did not pass through Israel, which has maintained a tight blockade on Gaza since 2007.
Last week, as a “generous grant” from Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Dahlan, a former top member of Abbas’s Fatah party now exiled in the United Arab Emirates, announced the delivery of the vaccines.
Dahlan, currently UAE strongman Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-security Nahyan’s advisor, has claimed credit for the delivery that some Palestinians see as a political move ahead of legislative and presidential polls in May and July.
The vaccines were for “medical teams” in Gaza, which has not yet started a general vaccination campaign, a statement Sunday from a dissident branch of the Fatah party Dahlan controls said.
Analysts are watching Dahlan move closely ahead of the Palestinian elections, the first since 2006, in the midst of speculation that he could attempt to challenge Abbas’ camp.
This week, the first batch of vaccine doses, part of a Sputnik V supply secured by the Abbas-controlled Palestinian Authority, arrived in Gaza.
The PA has said that it will share its supplies in Gaza with Hamas.
That shipment was sent by the PA through Israel from the occupied West Bank, which had originally blocked its delivery to Gaza.
The Israeli Civil Affairs Department in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (COGAT) has said it requires “political” instructions before allowing vaccines to enter the coastal enclave where, since 2008, Israel has fought three wars against Hamas.
By stemming the free flow of vaccines into Gaza, both Hamas and the PA have accused Israel of violating international law.
In the meantime, rights groups and the UN have called on Israel, currently the world leader in per capita vaccinations, to ensure that Palestinians are vaccinated in Gaza and the West Bank.