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In first, UAE plane crosses Israel’s skies en route to Abu Dhabi

Etihad Airways plane flying from Milan to Abu Dhabi traverses Israeli airspace, following Israeli-Jordanian agreement allowing airlines to cross territories, reducing flight times

A cargo plane operated by Etihad Airways, carrying medical aid for Palestinians related to the coronavirus COVID-19 disease, prepares to land at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on June 9, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP)
Illustrative: A cargo plane operated by Etihad Airways, carrying medical aid for Palestinians related to the coronavirus COVID-19 disease, prepares to land at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on June 9, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP)

In a first, a passenger plane from the United Air Emirates flew over Israel on its way from Milan to Abu Dhabi.

The flight was the first to traverse Israeli airspace as part of an aviation agreement inked last week between Israel and Jordan to allow airlines to fly over both countries’ territories en route to various destinations. The deal is expected to shorten regional flight times.

“Captain, we are thrilled and honored to welcome you to overfly Israel,” an Israeli air traffic controller is heard telling the Etihad Airways pilot in an audio clip released by the Transportation Ministry. “This is a historic moment we have all been waiting for. We hope it will inspire the whole region and mark the beginning of a new era, inshallah (in Arabic: God willing).”

The pilot responded: “Inshallah, thank you, the honor is ours.”

Two Etihad cargo flights carrying coronavirus aid for Palestinians flew directly from the UAE to Israel earlier this year, before the two countries agreed to normalize diplomatic ties.

In a statement on Wednesday’s flight, Transportation Minister Miri Regev said Israel and the UAE are working hard to get direct flights between the countries off the ground.

Direct flights were set to begin this month, but an Israeli official on Tuesday said they will be postponed until January because of the coronavirus.

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