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Israel launches direct flights to Morocco

Israel launches direct flights to Morocco
2 min read
Israeli airlines launched their first commercial flights to Morocco following a controversial normalisation deal between Rabat and Tel Aviv.
About 100 passengers were on an Israir flight that departed from Tel Aviv to Marrakesh [Getty]

Israeli carriers on Sunday launched the first direct commercial flights between Tel Aviv and Morocco since the countries normalised diplomatic relations in a controversial US-brokered deal last year.

About 100 passengers were on an Israir flight that departed from Tel Aviv to Marrakesh, airline spokeswoman Tali Leibovitz told AFP, adding that two to three flights per week were planned on the route.

National airline El Al later announced it too had launched its a service to Marrakesh on Sunday, and planned five flights per week there and to Casablanca.

At a ceremony sending off the El Al flight attended by Moroccan envoy Abderrahim Beyyoudh, Israel's Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov said the service would boost "trade, tourism and economic cooperation between the countries", according to an El Al statement.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said last week that he would visit Morocco shortly after direct flights commenced. Morocco was one of four regional states to normalise ties with Israel in 2020, along with Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates. The move was slammed by the Palestinians and much of the Arab nations as a betrayal to the Palestinian cause.

In return, the administration of former US president Donald Trump recognised Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara, a disputed and divided former Spanish colony.

Morocco is home to North Africa's largest Jewish community, which numbers around 3,000. Some 700,000 Jews of Moroccan origin live in Israel.

Rabat had a liaison office in Tel Aviv but relations came to a halt during the 2000-2005 second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

Palestinians believe the normalisation between Arabs and Israel should only follow a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the creation of a Palestinian state.