The United Arab Emirates is sending 20,000 doses of the Russian coronavirus vaccine to the Gaza Strip, a rival to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced Thursday, in a decision that could have repercussions for upcoming elections.
The announcement by Mohammed Dahlan came a day after Abbas’ government managed to deliver 2,000 vaccines to Gaza and appeared to be aimed in part at embarrassing the PA president.
Dahlan called the shipment a “generous grant” from the UAE “at a sensitive time where the pandemic is targeting all our beloved.” An aide to Dahlan said the Sputnik V vaccines will be delivered to Gaza through Egypt on Sunday.
Dahlan, a former senior member of Abbas’ Fatah party, has lived in exile in Abu Dhabi since falling out with Abbas in 2011. Dahlan was subsequently sentenced in absentia to three years in prison over alleged embezzlement.
May’s parliamentary elections are to pit Fatah against Gaza’s ruling Hamas terrorist group. Abbas has blocked Dahlan from running in the election, which would be the first Palestinian vote in 15 years. But Dahlan’s allies, running as a Fatah splinter group called the Democratic Reform Bloc, are planning on contesting the race and could emerge as kingmakers.
Dahlan was once a bitter foe of Hamas when he served as the Palestinian security chief in Gaza. But after the group seized control of Gaza in 2007 and forced him to flee the territory, the sides later found common ground in their animosity toward Abbas.
The expected delivery of vaccines could further boost Dahlan’s standing in the territory as Abbas continues to struggle to procure vaccines for his people.
Gaza’s Health Ministry has reported more than 53,000 cases and at least 538 deaths since the start of the pandemic, and authorities have been reluctant to impose widespread lockdowns because the territory is already mired in poverty. With Emirati money, Dahlan’s group has delivered tons of medical aid, including an oxygen generator, to support Gaza’s weak health care system dealing with COVID-19 patients.