Palestinians again refuse planeload of virus aid from UAE
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Palestinians again refuse planeload of virus aid from UAE

Palestinian Authority official says they will not accept medical equipment because flight was coordinated directly between Israel and Emirates

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)
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)

RAMALLAH — The Palestinian Authority refused Wednesday a planeload of medical supplies from the United Arab Emirates to help fight coronavirus since it was coordinated with Israel rather than with them.

The Etihad Airways flight, which landed in Israel on Tuesday, was the second airborne delivery of humanitarian cargo by the UAE that the Palestinians say they have turned down in a month.

“We refuse to receive it because it was coordinated directly between Israel and them (the UAE),” Palestinian civil affairs minister Hussein al-Sheikh told AFP.

“We were not part of the coordination.”

Hussein al-Sheikh, a close confidant of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking on Palestine TV, the official PA channel. (Screenshot: Palestine TV)

Jordan and Egypt are the only Arab countries to hold official relations with Israel, but Gulf Arab nations like the UAE have been warming to the Jewish state recently amid shared concerns over Iran.

While a May 19 Etihad flight carrying Palestinian aid from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv was unmarked, Tuesday was the first time an Etihad aircraft landed in Israel bearing its logo, a source with knowledge of the flight told AFP.

The Foreign Ministry said it had helped coordinate the flight and that the aid was to be transferred by the United Nations to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

“Proud of @IsraelMFA’s role in facilitating the arrival of the @etihad cargo plane,” Foreign Ministry director Yuval Rotem tweeted Tuesday. “We hope that future ETIHAD flights landing here will be carrying #UAE tourists.”

With the Palestinian refusal it was not clear what the fate would be of the supplies.

The first shipment — 14 tons of medical supplies earmarked for the Palestinians to help cope with the coronavirus pandemic — was also 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 at the time that there was far greater need for the supplies in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas, rather than the PA, holds sway.

The UAE’s aid flights come as Israel prepares to move forward with annexing West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley. A peace plan announced by US President Donald Trump in January gave the green light for such annexations.

Analysts say Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes Arab states normalizing ties with Israel will push the Palestinians to reach a peace deal.

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