Etihad Airways has confirmed it will make another rare direct flight to Israel with a 16-tonne aid shipment for the Palestinian Territories onboard. There are no formal diplomatic relations between the two countries and special flights operated in the past had to make a stopover in a neutral third country. Etihad made history on May 16 when it flew the first direct commercial flight from its hub in Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport with an aid shipment as part of the country’s COVID-19 response.
While that first shipment was initially hailed as a success in not only delivering much needed medical aid for the Palestinian’s but also opening up diplomatic relations with Israel, the operation soon became marred in controversy. A week after delivering the aid, including 10 ventilators for critically ill Coronavirus patients, the shipment remained on the ground within the perimeter of Ben Gurion airport.
Israeli media sources claimed the Palestinian Authorities (PA) refused to accept the aid, saying the historic flight was being used as a “tool for normalization” between the UAE and Israel.
The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) said it was looking at ways to distribute the aid, which also includes Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks and disposable gowns. Much of the aid was moved to a holding facility in Ashdod which is located around halfway between Tel Aviv and the Gaza Strip.
It’s not known how much aid has made it into the Palestinian Territories.
The PA were allegedly angry that the UAE didn’t arrange the shipment directly with them and saw it more as a “pretext” to opening up diplomatic relations with the Israelis. Presumably, today’s flight has been made in coordination with the PA.
Just like the first shipment, Etihad Airways will operate today’s flight as a cargo-only service without any passengers onboard. But unlike that first flight, sources claim the airline won’t be using an all-white Airbus A330 without any obvious markings to distinguish where it came from.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.