Israel says it shared some COVID vaccines with Palestinians, Honduras

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel is giving a “symbolic” amount of surplus COVID-19 vaccines to the Palestinians and to several countries, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein attend the arrival of a plane with a shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines, at Ben Gurion airport, near the city of Lod, Israel, January 10, 2021. Motti Millrod/Pool via REUTERS

An Israeli official said Honduras was among the recipients. The Central American country said last year it intended to move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem, a diplomatic gain for Israel.

Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital, although that is not recognised by most countries. Palestinians seek East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war, as the capital of a future independent state.

The Honduran embassy in Israel had no immediate comment.

Israel has been importing Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc vaccines. According to the Health Ministry, it has administered at least one Pfizer dose to almost 50% of its 9 million population as well as to Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

But it has come under foreign criticism for not providing similarly for Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

This month the Palestinians received an initial shipment of Moderna vaccines from Israel and have also begun administering Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines in Gaza and the West Bank.

An Israeli official said the matter was discussed by Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and U.S. counterpart Antony Blinken on Monday.

Ashkenazi updated him about the amount of vaccines transferred to Gaza and the West Bank, and the vaccination of Palestinian labourers in Israel, the official said.

The statement from Netanyahu’s office said the vaccines donated by Israel were a surplus built up over the last month. Describing the donations as symbolic, it said they would be used by the foreign recipients’ medical personnel.

Israel informed countries that asked it for donations that the vaccines it had ordered “are intended for vaccinating its population and there is no expectation of a capacity to provide significant (foreign) assistance, at least before the vaccination campaign in Israel ends,” the statement said.

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