A private Israeli aircraft carrying medical staff and supplies landed at Khartoum International Airport on Tuesday morning in a bid to save the life of the diplomat behind the rapprochement between Sudan and Israel. Among the Israeli group was a senior Israeli official involved in normalising links with Sudan.
The plan was to transport diplomat Najwa Gadaheldam, a close advisor to Sudanese leader Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, to Israel for treatment. By the time the group landed on Tuesday morning, however, Gadaheldam was already in critical condition. She passed away only 24 hours after the Israeli medical team arrived, reported Israel's Channel 13.
The flight was reported after the aircraft appeared on tracking sites, otherwise it is likely that it would have remained a secret, not least because Sudan and Israel are still technically at war, despite having moved towards a normalisation of relations in recent months.
NEW MIDDLE EAST: Flight from Israel lands in Sudan. Sudan once had a long, brutal, Islamist dictatorship. Change is coming. pic.twitter.com/NPscjhiJp3
— David Reaboi (@davereaboi) May 26, 2020
According to Channel 13, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ministers in a cabinet meeting on Sunday that he had spoken to Al-Burhan and sent holiday wishes ahead of the Eid al-Fitr celebrations, which mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The channel speculated that Netanyahu and Al-Burhan may have discussed Gadaheldam's condition during the call, prompting the Israeli medics to fly to Khartoum.
During the phone call Netanyahu apparently said that he wants to see the "continued strengthening of relations" between Israel, Sudan and other Muslim countries, CBN News reported. Relations between Israel and Sudan softened after a secret meeting between the two leaders in Uganda in February.
At the time, the Israeli premier touted the meeting as a major international relations achievement ahead of his country's March General Election, but Sudan's Al-Burhan maintained that the pair had made no promises about "normalising ties". Nevertheless, soon after the meeting, Israeli aircraft were granted permission to use Sudanese airspace en route to destinations across Africa.
Nevertheless, Sudan is a member of the Arab League and joined other member states in rejecting Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan earlier this year. The plan, which Israel intends to implement unilaterally if faced with opposition, gave the green light to the annexation of parts of the West Bank while purporting to allow the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state.