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First EgyptAir flight between Cairo and Tel Aviv lands at Ben Gurion Airport

Route had been discreetly operated by subsidiary Air Sinai for decades in unmarked aircraft, but commercial line will now be openly run by national carrier

First commercial flight of EgyptAir lands at Israel's Ben Gurion airport, October 3, 2021 (Israel Airports Authority)
First commercial flight of EgyptAir lands at Israel's Ben Gurion airport, October 3, 2021 (Israel Airports Authority)

The first commercial flight of EgyptAir, the national airline of Egypt, between Cairo and Tel Aviv landed Sunday morning at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport.

There are now due to be four nonstop commercial flights a week between Ben Gurion International Airport and Cairo.

Until now, the only flights between Israel and Cairo were operated by Air Sinai, a subsidiary of EgyptAir, which operated the flights in unmarked planes without the Egyptian flag.

The Air Sinai flights between Tel Aviv and Cairo have operated continuously since the 1980s in order to fulfill the terms of the 1979 peace deal between Israel and Egypt, but were kept inconspicuous amid lingering hostilities between the nations.

The EgyptAir flights, including Sunday’s, are all to be flown by the airline’s fully marked aircraft.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in Sharm el-Sheikh two weeks ago, marking the first public visit to Egypt by a serving Israeli leader in more than a decade. Following his visit, Bennett said he’d held “an important and very good meeting” with the Egyptian leader, in which the two “laid the foundation for deep ties moving forward.”

Video from the scene showed both leaders smiling and exchanging pleasantries.

An Israeli flag was perched behind Bennett as he sat across from Sissi for a photo opportunity; the flag appeared in full when it ran in Al-Ahram, the Egyptian regime’s most well-known mouthpiece.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi meet on Monday, September 13, 2021 in Sharm el-Sheikh. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The meeting marked the first public visit of an Israeli premier to Egypt since former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Netanyahu never formally visited Egypt again, although the two sides met for “working meetings” in secret over the years.

Israel and Egypt have bolstered their diplomatic ties in recent years. The two governments share security interests in the Gaza Strip — Egypt, like Israel, sees the enclave’s Hamas rulers as a serious threat — as well as in Sinai and the eastern Mediterranean.

Separately, the first commercial flight between Bahrain and Israel landed Thursday at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, a year after the US-brokered normalization of ties between the countries.

Tal Schneider contributed to this report.

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