The Palestinian Authority (PA), which governs the West Bank, says it will not accept an offer from Israel for 1 million doses of coronavirus vaccines.
Israel’s offer was part of a deal it reached with the PA on Friday, under which the Palestinians would return a similar number of vaccines later this year.
But hours after the deal was announced, the PA said the doses, which Israel had begun shipping to the occupied West Bank, were too close to expiring and did not meet its standards.
In announcing the agreement, Israel had said the vaccines “will expire soon” without specifying the date.
PA officials had come under heavy criticism on social media after the deal was announced, with many accusing the leadership of accepting sub-par vaccines and suggesting they might not be effective.
There was no immediate comment from Israel, which had largely shut down for the weekly Sabbath.
Later on Friday, Palestinian Health Minister Mai Alkaila said health officials who inspected the vaccines found they “did not meet standards and so we decided to return them”.
PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh ordered the cancellation of the agreement and the return of the vaccines to Israel, a government spokesman said.
The official said the Palestinians would not accept “about-to-expire” vaccines from Israel, citing the official Israeli statement.
Israel, which has fully reopened after vaccinating some 85% of its adult population, has faced criticism for not sharing its vaccines with the 4.5 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
The new Israeli government, which was sworn in on Sunday with Naphtali bennet as prime minister, said it would transfer Pfizer vaccines that will expire soon, and that the PA would return the favour with a similar number of vaccines when it receives them from the pharmaceutical company in September or October.