Israel is to give the Palestinians 150,000 vaccines against foot and mouth disease, according to General Yaakov Or, the coordinator of Israeli activities in the Palestinian territories.
"We are going to supply 150,000 doses of vaccine and look into the on-the-ground study information that the Palestinians will be giving us," the general told public television.
Palestinian agriculture minister Hikmat Zeid told AFP Friday, March 16, that 13 cases of foot and mouth had been found among sheep in the West Bank.
He said that the veterinary services of the Palestinian authority were experiencing difficulties in establishing the exact extent of the disease, due to the blockade of Palestinian towns by the Israeli army.
Zeid said three cases were found Thursday and that 10 more were identified on Friday. He added that the disease could be more widespread in the Palestinian territories, but that the Palestinians have had difficulty studying the situation because of Israel's military closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"We cannot reach many areas to study because of the Israeli military closure, and this threatens the entire region. We sent letters to international organizations and to Israel," he added.
But Yarden Vatikay, a spokesman for Israeli government activities in the Palestinian territories, said the Palestinians had not yet asked Israel for help in fighting foot and mouth.
"There was no appeal made by the Palestinians for any assistance from Israel, but we have offered all assistance that we could give to contain this disease," Vatikay told AFP. "This message was conveyed at a high level."
He accused the Palestinians of trying to turn the disease into a criticism of Israel's closure policy, which he said has not restricted humanitarian services.
Israel slapped a blockade on the West Bank and Gaza Strip more than five months ago in an attempt to contain deadly Israeli-Palestinian clashes which have left nearly 440 people dead, most of them Palestinians.
The closure, which prevents Palestinians from entering Israel and limits their ability to move between Palestinian-run areas, has been tightened and eased over the months of conflict, most recently this week when Israel relaxed some of the strict measures imposed since right-wing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took office earlier this month.
Foot-and-mouth disease, first reported in Europe, has also been reported in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Forty-five cattle have been destroyed in the UAE and another 76 cases of foot-and-mouth disease have been reported there, newspapers said Friday. A Saudi official said Wednesday that two cases of the disease had been reported in the Western port city of Yanbu.
"If precautionary measures are not taken promptly, the disease will spread and threaten neighboring countries and will lead to an economic disaster," the Palestinian agriculture ministry said in a statement printed in the Al-Hayat Al-Jadida newspaper. — (AFP, Jerusalem)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)