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RAFAH, Palestinian Territories: One million doses of coronavirus vaccine arrived in Gaza from the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday, the latest donation facilitated by an exiled rival of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

Mohammed Dahlan, a Gaza native now based in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, was once a top Palestinian Authority official who served as Abbas's security chief in the territory before its takeover by the Islamist Hamas movement in 2007.

Gaza health ministry spokesman Mahmud Hammad told journalists that the consignment of one million doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine marked the largest single shipment of Covid vaccines to the Israeli-blockaded territory.

The vaccines were delivered through Gaza's Rafah crossing with Egypt, the only one not controlled by Israel.

The same route was used for previous shipments organised by Dahlan, who has increasingly sought to position himself as a benefactor for the Palestinian people.

Pfizer, BioNTech begin Omicron vaccine trial

Dahlan had been expected to emerge as a key player from Palestinian elections scheduled for last year but the polls were postponed indefinitely by Abbas in a move that also infuriated Hamas.

The ministry's head of preventive medicine, Magdy Duhair, warned that Gaza's health system was under increased strain due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

While Gaza's beleaguered medical system has struggled at times during the pandemic, coronavirus transmission has been limited by the tight controls Israel and Egypt enforce on travel in and out of the coastal enclave.

Gaza, which has a population of roughly 2.3 million, has recorded 196,578 Covid cases and 1,744 deaths. So far, 578,000 residents have received two doses of a vaccine.

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