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Second UAE cargo plane lands in Israel without consulting Palestinians

An Etihad cargo plane lands at Ben Gurion airport for the second time ever [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 June, 2020

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The Palestinian PM says he was not consulted about a delivery of coronavirus aid, coordinated by Israel and the UN.
An Etihad Airways cargo plane, carrying cornavirus aid from the UAE to Palestinians, landed in Israel on Tuesday, the second ever direct commercial flight between the two countries and another act of normalisation by Abu Dhabi.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Tuesday he was unaware of the aid delivery, casting doubts over whether the government would accept the aid delivery.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner which arrived at Ben Gurion Airport bore the airline's logo and the Emirati flag - the first time a flight to Israel had carried the UAE national carrier's livery.

It prompted many observers to point out the gradual normalisation of ties between the two countries.

Last month, an unmarked Etihad commercial flight carrying medical equipment for the Palestinians landed in Israel - the first-ever direct commercial flight between the UAE and Israel, sparking uproar in the Arab world.

Israel's foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that the aid would be transferred to Gaza and the Palestinian Authority by the UN and COGAT, Israel's military body in the occupied West Bank.

It said the plane's arrival was coordinated with Israeli authorities.

However Shtayyeh said that the Palestinian Authority had not been informed.

The Palestinians have no airports, with aid usually arriving  via Jordan, Egypt or Israel. They rejected the previous shipment of medical supplies for coronavirus on 19 May, saying it had not been coordinated with them.

"If any country, whether Arab or European or international country wants to help us, we welcome that. We don't say no - as long as it is not conditional and as long as it is fully coordinated with us," Shtayyeh said at the time.

The Emirati foreign ministry said it had cordinated the delivery through the UN.

"The UAE's only concern is to support the Palestinian people through this challenging period, in line with its historic support," the ministry said in a statement.

The two flights have delivered some 16 tonnes of material, including personal protective equipment and around 15 ventilators, in response to an appeal led by the UN for Palestinians in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, a UN official said.

The UN plans to distribute the equipment to the most needy Palestinians and is likely to send a large part to the Gaza Strip, the official said, noting the increased needs there and the particularly weak health infrastructure.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss details of the operation with the media.

Last month's flight marked a public moment of cooperation between Israel and the UAE, who have no official diplomatic ties, but are rumoured to have engaged in years of back-channel communications over the mutual concerns about Iran and other matters.

Depite not officially acknowledging Israel's existance, the UAE have let Israeli officials visit and played the national anthem after an athlete won gold at an Abu Dhabi judo tournament last year.

Israel also has a small mission representing its interests at the International Renewable Energy Agency in Abu Dhabi.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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