First UAE citizen in space took Israel flag on mission prior to normalisation

First UAE citizen in space took Israel flag on mission prior to normalisation
2 min read
24 December, 2021
The astronaut handed the flag to Israel's exhibition team at the ongoing Expo 2020 Dubai world's fair.
Astronaut Hazzaa Al-Mansoori also revealed he wishes to travel to Israel soon [Sergei Savostyanov/TASS/Getty-archive]

The first citizen of the United Arab Emirates to be sent into space said he took an Israeli flag with him on his inaugural 2019 trip into the expanse.

This occurred before astronaut Hazzaa Al-Mansoori's country had normalised ties with Tel Aviv last August.

The astronaut, who spent eight days aboard the International Space Station during his first time in space, handed the flag to Israel's exhibition team at the ongoing Expo 2020 Dubai world's fair, Israeli outlet Ynet said on Thursday.

Al-Mansoori explained: "I am happy to be here and present this Israeli flag to the people here and the Israeli public.

"I took this flag with me two years ago on my first mission as an Emirati astronaut and this is my gift to all Israelis."

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He also revealed he wishes to travel to Israel, perhaps even in January, if coronavirus measures allow, Ynet said.

"The flag was delivered to us with a dedication. Al-Mansoori came wearing his astronaut uniform and seemed excited," exhibition chief Josh Bendit said.

"His visit shows us how important he finds the UAE-Israeli relations."

On the same mission as Al-Mansoori was fellow rookie Jessica Meir, a Swedish-US dual national whose father was Israeli.

The UAE and other Arab states who normalised ties with Israel have been widely criticised for failing to prioritise the rights of the Palestinian people.

Israel illegally occupies Palestine's West Bank, expels Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem in favour of settlers and maintains a crushing blockade on the Gaza Strip.