Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways is to operate a rare, second flight to Israel on Tuesday carrying medical aid to be delivered to the Palestinians, Reuters reported an airline spokeswoman as saying.
The state-owned carrier made the first known flight to Israel by a United Arab Emirates airline on May 19. It transported supplies to help the Palestinians combat the new coronavirus after the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) coordinated a 16-tonne shipment from the UAE.
However, Palestinian authorities refused to receive that shipment, asserting that any assistance meant to be sent to the Palestinian people should be coordinated with the Palestinian Authority first. They added:
Sending them directly to Israel constitutes a cover for normalisation.
It was not immediately clear what has since happened to the first shipment. A Palestinian Authority spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.
Like the first flight, Tuesday’s flight from Abu Dhabi will be cargo-only with no passengers onboard, the Etihad spokeswoman told Reuters by email.
“Etihad Airways continues to operate humanitarian flights providing much needed aid to nations within its network and beyond,” she said.
Israel does not have diplomatic relations with the UAE or any of the other five Gulf Arab countries, and there are no commercial flights between them. However, shared concerns over Iran’s influence in the region have led to a discrete thaw in ties between Israel and the Arab Gulf in recent years.
Last month, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned the first commercial flight between the two countries as a form of “treachery” and a “betrayal” to the Palestinian cause, as he accused them of normalising relations with Israel. He wrote on Twitter:
Today, some Persian Gulf states have committed the biggest treachery against their own history and the history of the Arab world. They have betrayed #Palestine by supporting Israel.
An Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters Tuesday’s Etihad flight was completing a shipment of aid from the UAE to the Palestinians.