JERUSALEM: The number of people inoculated in Israel for coronavirus passed the 2 million threshold on Thursday (Jan 14), with the prime minister saying there was "light at the end of the tunnel".
Israel "will become the first country to emerge from the corona crisis", Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted.
"We see the light at the end of the tunnel," he said, all smiles as he watched an Israeli woman become the second millionth person to receive the COVID-19 jab.
"I am the second millionth" to be vaccinated in Israel, read a sign held by 22-year-old Margaret Alsoso as she received her first dose of the vaccine in the city of Ramla near Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu - who faces yet another re-election contest and a corruption trial over the coming weeks - has sought to highlight his personal role in the inoculation campaign.
The prime minister was the first to get the jab on Dec 19, when Israel launched its inoculation campaign with the vaccine made by US-German pharma alliance Pfizer-BioNTech.
In early January authorities said 2 million people would receive a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the month.
As of Thursday only 150,000 people had received both of the two doses.
But as Israel pushes aggressively with its vaccination drive, it is also witnessing a surge in the pandemic with about 9,000 coronavirus cases registered daily.
The country, currently in its third national lockdown, has recorded more than 523,000 cases, including around 3,850 deaths, according to the health ministry.
OBLIGATIONS TO PALESTINIANS
Amnesty International has called on Israel to provide coronavirus vaccine doses to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip, saying the Jewish state is obliged to do so under international law.
Israel has come under harsh criticism after Public Security Minister Amir Ohana last month said Palestinian prisoners would be the last to receive the vaccines.
Five Israeli human rights organisations on Monday filed a supreme court petition urging authorities to vaccinate Palestinians in Israeli custody.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Thursday the first doses of the vaccine would be distributed to prisons next week, adding that a medical committee would decide who would get the first jabs.
According to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, a rights group, 190 Palestinian inmates, out of around 4,400 held in Israeli jails, have tested positive for coronavirus since April.
The Palestinian Authority has not publicly said whether it has sought vaccines from Israel.
But on Monday the Palestine Liberation Organisation called on the international community "to hold Israel to account" and ensure the Jewish state provides vaccines to all Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.