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2nd UAE plane to fly to Israel with aid for Palestinians

UN official says medical aid shipment will eventually be dispatched from Ashdod, apparently to Gaza; unlike first flight, this one said to display Etihad Airways logo

An Etihad Airways flight with aid for the Palestinians to fight the coronavirus pandemic is unloaded at Ben Gurion Airport on May 19, 2020. (Nickolay Mladenov/Twitter)
An Etihad Airways flight with aid for the Palestinians to fight the coronavirus pandemic is unloaded at Ben Gurion Airport on May 19, 2020. (Nickolay Mladenov/Twitter)

The United Arab Emirates is sending a second planeload of medical supplies for the Palestinians during the coronavirus pandemic, the airline said Tuesday.

An Israeli official said that unlike the May 19 flight with the first tranche of aid, the plane landing at Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday will be marked with the Etihad Airways logo.

A spokesperson for the airline confirmed to the Reuters news agency that the flight was taking place.

“Etihad Airways continues to operate humanitarian flights providing much needed aid to nations within its network and beyond,” she said.

In this May 4, 2014, photo, an Etihad Airways plane prepares to land at the Abu Dhabi airport in the United Arab Emirates (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

The plane will carry only cargo, and is believed to be the second-ever direct commercial flight between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

A United Nations official told The Times of Israel that the plane is carrying the second shipment of a pre-planned two-part consignment.

Once it clears customs and security checks, the aid will be dispatched to a holding terminal at the Ashdod seaport, where the first part of the shipment is waiting.

The decision to send the goods to Ashdod indicates they will likely end up in Gaza and not the West Bank.

The first part of the shipment — 14 tons of medical supplies earmarked for the Palestinians to help cope with the coronavirus pandemic — was delayed at Ben Gurion Airport last month as UN officials worked to find a way, to distribute it after the Palestinian Authority announced it would not accept it.

The PA insisted the UAE had not coordinated the matter with it and that it therefore could not accept the aid, whose delivery via plane to Tel Aviv was seen as a step toward the normalization of ties between Israel and the Gulf states.

However, a UN official made clear to The Times of Israel that there was far greater need for the supplies in the Gaza  Strip.

The UN conducted an assessment of the ongoing medical situations in both territories where it operates extensively and determined that roughly 65 percent of the UAE shipment should go to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip while the remainder could go to the West Bank, the official said.

An Etihad Airways plane ferrying medical aid for the Palestinians taxis after landing at Ben Gurion Airport on May 19, 2020. It was the first known commercial flight between the United Arab Emirates and Israel. (Screen capture: Twitter)

A Palestinian official told the Al-Jazeera network Tuesday that the flight due to arrive this week with aid was for a second time arranged without coordination with the Palestinian Authority, which was also the official reason given for Ramallah’s decision to reject the first shipment.

“The Palestinian Authority has nothing to do with UAE scheduled to land at Ben Gurion Airport. As far as I know, no coordination has been made with the authority on the matter,” the unnamed official said, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Relations between Israel and the PA are at a low point due to Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank next month.

Meanwhile, in a further sign of warming ties between Israel and the UAE, earlier Tuesday the Foreign Ministry’s Twitter account for the Gulf region congratulated Abu Dhabi ahead of the launch of its probe to Mars, the first Arab space mission to the Red Planet.

“We wish good luck to the United Arab Emirates on a scientific level and hope this move will contribute to deepening cooperation between all countries of the region,” the tweet read.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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