Israel-UAE VIP flight expected to pass through Saudi airspace

Israel-UAE VIP flight expected to pass through Saudi airspace
The first flight from Israel to the UAE will fly through Saudi airspace.
2 min read
31 August, 2020
El Al will operate the flight to the UAE [Getty]
The first ever commercial flight from Israel to the UAE will pass through Saudi airspace on Monday after weeks of speculation, officials have said.

The El Al flight will take off from Tel Aviv for Abu Dhabi on Monday carrying leading US and Israeli dignitaries, marking August's controversial normalisation agreement between Israel and the UAE. 

There had been questions whether Saudi Arabia, which still does not recognise Israel, would allow the flight to pass through its airspace.

An unnamed source who was asked by Reuters whether the Israeli flight will pass through Saudi airspace responded "yes".

Israeli media have also reported that the route map of El Al Flight 971, Israel's national carrier, also showed it will be flying through Saudi airspace.

The Israeli Airlines Pilots Association stressed that "to the best of our knowledge [this] still hasn't been approved by the Saudis", but flying this course would shave hours off the circumvented route via the Red Sea, according to Times of Israel.

Saudi Arabia has allowed Air India flights to Israel to pass through its airspace since 2018 but the "normalisation flight" is a more controversial issue for Riyadh.

While a firm ally of the UAE, Saudi officials have said Riyadh will not follow Abu Dhabi in recognising Israel until a Palestinian state has been established.

Monday's flight will be carrying leading US dignitaries, including President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner and Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat.

Images published by Israeli media showed that the plane had been emblazoned with the word "peace" in English, Hebrew and Arabic.

Israel and the UAE announced a normalisation deal on 13 August, sparking anger across the Arab world.

Some Arab countries are expected to normalise relations with the UAE although none have yet announced deals with Israel.

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