An Israeli human rights group has warned Israeli authorities against politicizing the provision of COVID-19 vaccines to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Karim Gibran, the spokesman for B’Tselem, said that Israel has a responsibility under international law as an occupying power to provide coronavirus vaccines to “all Palestinians in the Palestinian territories, including in the Gaza Strip.”

“Israel, as an occupying power, has a duty according to international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention to provide vaccination for all Palestinians under occupation.”

On Thursday, Yoav Hindel, an Israeli parliamentarian and the head of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, called for the release of four Israeli soldiers imprisoned by Hamas as a precondition for Palestinians in Gaza to receive the vaccines.

“As long as there is no humanitarian gesture on the part of Hamas to return prisoners and the dead, vaccines are not food or water,” Hindel tweeted.

The four soldiers have been held hostage by Hamas since the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza.

The vaccination campaign kickstarted two days ago in the occupied West Bank.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Ministry of Health announced the launch of a vaccination campaign for medical teams in the Palestinian territories after obtaining 2,000 vaccine doses from the Israeli authorities.

The ministry added that a portion of the doses will be sent to Gaza a day later, something that has not happened so far.

However, the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation reported on Tuesday Israel’s objection to the Palestinian Health Ministry to deliver vaccines to Gaza.

Gibran, whose organization calls for ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, slammed Israel’s objection to provide vaccines to the Palestinians under occupation as an “apartheid policy”.

“In one geographical area, Israel provides vaccines to more than 600,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, while it does not provide the vaccine to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” he added.

The total number of Israelis who have received the first dose of the vaccine reached 3,370,951, while the number of those who received the second dose stands at 1,965,972, the Israeli Ministry of Health reported on Friday.

*Ibrahim Mukhtar contributed to this report from Ankara

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