An Israeli El Al Airlines airplane flying from Buenos Aires crossed through Sudan’s airspace on Thursday, the first commercial Israeli airliner to do so, according to The Times of Israel, as a potential indication of improving relations between Israel and Sudan.
The El Al flight marked ELY046, was seen on flight tracker site flightradar24 entering Sudan’s airspace around 18:30 UTC, about 12 hours after it took off from Buenos Aires, and was scheduled to land in Tel Aviv a few hours later.
According to the Times of Israel‘s source, Sudanese authorities sought to minimise the attention the flight would get, insisting that the flight be delayed so that it would only enter Sudan’s airspace after the country’s evening news ended.
If access to Sudan’s airspace becomes permanent, it would allow for direct flights between Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport and Argentina’s Buenos Aires to be shortened by some two hours.
Although this was the first Israeli commercial airliner to enter Sudanese airspace, it was not the first Israeli aircraft to do so. There was a flight that used Sudanese airspace, back in February 2020, while an unidentified Israeli aircraft entered and landed in Sudan last week.
Last week, Israel Radio’s diplomatic correspondent covering Arab affairs, Simon Aran, announced that an Israeli airplane landed in Khartoum International Airport, without revealing who was on board and the purpose of landing in the Sudanese capital.
— שמעון ארן شمعون آران (@simonarann) May 26, 2020
Sudanese sources confirmed that a private foreign airplane landed at Khartoum International Airport, and one of the sources disclosed that: “It was in the airfield, at a time when Sudanese government officials refused to answer questions about the side that the plane belongs to.”
The spokesman of the Armed Forces, Brigadier General Amer Mohamed Al-Hassan, however denied the news of an Israeli airplane arriving in Khartoum.
Instead, he revealed that a Turkish airplane had arrived at the military air base attached to Khartoum International Airport carrying medical supplies, according to The Saudi Reality website.
Al-Hassan added that: “It is an aid plane provided by the Turkish government and was received by Major General Dr Hazem, who belongs to the Department of Medical Services and the committee formed to receive medical aid,” and that the Sudanese airspace is opened only through known arrangements.
Al-Hassan denied knowing the airplane registration authority that came with the Turkish aids. “I do not know who owns or who has certified the plane because these are technical details that we do not know about,” he clarified .
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reported on the first day of Eid Al-Fitr details about a phone call between him and the President of the Sudanese Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, on strengthening relations between the two countries.
The first Israeli aircraft to officially fly over Sudan’s airspace was announced on 16 February, after a meeting between Netanyahu and Al-Burhan on 3 February in the Ugandan city of Entebbe, at the invitation of President Yoweri Museveni.