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UAE pulls out of Independence Day flyby amid tensions over Temple Mount clashes

The original plan would have seen aircraft from Emirati Etihad Airways and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi soar alongside planes from Israeli airlines

An Etihad Airways plane carrying a delegation from the United Arab Emirates on a first official visit lands at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on October 20, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP)
An Etihad Airways plane carrying a delegation from the United Arab Emirates on a first official visit lands at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on October 20, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Two Emirati airlines announced on Tuesday that they are canceling their participation in the upcoming Independence Day flyover amid the ongoing tensions between Israel and the United Arab Emirates over clashes atop Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

The UAE reportedly informed Israeli Ambassador Amir Hayek of the decision during a dressing down over the violence at the holy site, the first such ceremonial rebuke since the two countries normalized relations a year and a half ago.

UAE Minister Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashemy conveyed the Emirates’ “strong protest and denunciation” of events in Jerusalem to Hayek, official UAE mouthpiece WAM reported.

“Al Hashemy stressed the need to immediately stop these events, provide full protection for worshipers, respect the right of Palestinians to practice their religious rites, and halt any practices that violate the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque,” WAM said.

The Israel Air Line Pilots Association originally announced on Sunday that the May 5th event — dubbed the Peace Fly-by 2022 — was slated to include aircraft from Emirati Etihad Airways and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi soaring alongside planes from Israeli airlines.

“We are sorry for this decision,” the Israel Airline Pilots Association said in a statement. “The Independence Day civil flyby will take place as planned on Independence Day immediately after the Air Force showcase and will cross Israel at a low altitude. The purpose of the flyover is to convey the resilience of Israeli aviation following the coronavirus pandemic.”

Palestinian rioters hurl stones toward Israeli security forces at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, on April 15, 2022. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

Sources at Etihad told the Israel Airline Pilots Association that they will not be able to take part in the aerial display due to not having enough time to prepare, according to Army Radio, with senior officials confirming that the real reason was the clashes at the Temple Mount.

The UAE also joined Bahrain and Morocco last week in the condemnation of Israel over last Friday’s violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

“The UAE strongly condemned today Israeli forces’ storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque, which resulted in the injury of a number of civilians,” the Gulf state’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that it “underscored the need for self-restraint and protection for worshipers.”

The statement said it “stressed the UAE’s position that the Israeli authorities should respect the right of Palestinians to practice their religious rites and halt any practices that violate the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

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