Despite no scheduled commercial service or even diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, an Etihad A330-200 landed in Tel Aviv on Tuesday to deliver coronavirus aid to Palestinians.
The aircraft, painted all white, bore the registration A6-EYP. A banner hung from the aircraft read:
“UAE AID: for Palestine to fight Coronavirus (COVID-19).”
Etihad confirmed the flight to the Associated Press:
“Etihad Airways operated a dedicated humanitarian cargo flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv on 19 May to provide medical supplies to the Palestinians.”
UAE’s state-run WAM news agency also confirmed the flight, stressing the humanitarian aid of the mission “to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic and its impact in the occupied Palestinian territory.”
Meanwhile, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, expressed hope that passengers flights would soon follow.
For the first time, an @etihad cargo plane just landed at Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport! Hopefully soon, we will see passenger flights, too. Having visited, I know the UAE is a fascinating place, and look to continue improving relations between our countries. pic.twitter.com/cfBEfTlE7y
— Ambassador Danny Danon | דני דנון (@dannydanon) May 19, 2020
Neither the West Bank nor Gaza Strip has its own airport, meaning all foreign aid delivered via air must flow through Israel. The delivery included 16 tonnes of personal protective equipment and 10 ventilators.
The flight avoided Jordanian and Saudi Arabian airspace, traveling via Syria and Iraq instead:
Although only speculation, rumors abound that Israel and the UAE have been secretly working on a rapprochement deal in order to better battle Iran, deemed a common enemy of the two nations. An unmarked plane in the middle of the night might not be much, but represents a glimmer of hope of warming relations between Israelis and Arabs in the regions.
Interestingly, all historic photos of A6-EYP online bear the Etihad livery. It appears the aircraft, much like the Air Sinai flights between Cairo and Tel Aviv, was painted white just for this mission. The aircraft pictured above is the same aircraft used for the mission.
image: RHL Images / Wikimedia Commons