Staff at a Pakistani airbase have reportedly confirmed a report that a private jet made a secretive trip to the country straight from Tel Aviv last month — despite vociferous denials from Islamabad.
A pilot and three staffers at the Noor Khan Airbase in Rawalpindi told the Britain-based Middle East Eye news website they saw a BizJet plane, described as having flown from Tel Aviv in earlier reports, either in the air or on the tarmac.
One staffer said he saw a car pick up a delegation from the plane and bring them back several hours later.
The flights from Tel Aviv to Pakistan and back reportedly took place on October 23 and October 24, the same time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a then-secret trip to Oman, and amid a flurry of open contacts between Israeli officials and the Gulf.
The reported trip, first flagged by an editor at the Israeli daily Haaretz, set off an avalanche of speculation and reports in the Israeli and Pakistani press, leading to several official denials.
Pakistan has continued to deny that there was an Israeli plane at the base.
Israeli ???????? bizjet flew from TLV to Islamabad, #Pakistan ????????, on the ground 10 hours, and back to TLV.
Cleared flight-plan with usual 5min groundtime trick in Amman
M-ULTI glex pic.twitter.com/haHn1NU73L
— avi scharf (@avischarf) October 25, 2018
Pakistani President Arif Alvi said on October 28 that Pakistan would not be establishing ties with Israel.
Though Pakistan has in the past indicated it would be prepared to formalize its relationship with the Jewish state once there is a peace agreement with the Palestinians, ties between the two countries are often complicated.
There have been reports of covert contacts between Israeli and Pakistani officials, including a WikiLeaks document that indicated that a high-ranking official in the Pakistani army met directly with the Israeli Mossad.
Publicly, however, the two nations have little to do with one another. Netanyahu reportedly canceled a dinner reservation in 2016 at a New York restaurant to avoid eating at the same time as Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.