A commercial flight bound for Israel flew through Saudi airspace on Thursday for the first time since Saudi Arabia opened its airspace to all flights, including Israelis, last month.
The flight operated by Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific took off from Hong Kong and landed in Tel Aviv on Thursday morning.
A flight tracking service tracked the plane as it flew over the United Arab Emirates and the Persian Gulf, before crossing the Saudi border in Dammam. The plane flew over northern Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and entered Israeli territory north of the Dead Sea.
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Another Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Tel Aviv took an alternate route earlier this week, flying over northwest China, Kazakhstan and Turkey before entering Israeli airspace via the Mediterranean.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced, last month, the opening of its airspace to all civilian flights, hours before US President Joe Biden headed directly to the Kingdom from Israel for the first time ever, in American history.
Saudi Arabia has made it clear that it has opened its airspace “to all air carriers that meet the requirements of the over-flight authority,” and authorized de facto Israeli companies, too, to shorten their routes by using Saudi airspace. The situation that prevailed before this announcement had the effect of preventing non-Israeli companies from flying to and from Israel.
Since last month’s announcement, no Israeli airline has, so far, flown through Saudi airspace.
On Wednesday, public broadcaster Kan reported that the Israeli airline El Al had received official permission from Riyadh to start using its airspace, while Channel 13 reported on the same day that El Al and the Israeli airline Arkia were waiting for the final green light from Saudi Arabia for this. . weekend.
Both Israel and the United States hailed Saudi Arabia’s decision to lift restrictions on overflights as a sign of a significant improvement in relations between Jerusalem and Riyadh. Prior to Biden’s visit, the Israeli authorities had expressed high hopes for progress toward normalization with Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has somehow showered those hopes, saying the decision “has nothing to do with its diplomatic relations with Israel” and that it was “in no way a harbinger of new steps” toward normalization.
Saudi Arabia began allowing Israeli airlines to use its airspace, in an air corridor designated for flights to and from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, after the Ibrahim agreements were concluded in 2020, without allowing flights to more eastern destinations.
permission to fly [donnée le mois passé] It means that flights to and from India, Thailand, China and other eastern countries will be able to significantly shorten their flight plan. Indeed, even then, flights to Asia departing from Tel Aviv had to detour on the Arabian Peninsula, extending the flight time from two to three hours.
The travel decision will also benefit Muslims in Israel who are keen to perform Hajj, as direct charter flights will be chartered to Saudi Arabia for pilgrims every year.
Israel and Saudi Arabia do not formally establish diplomatic relations, but secret relations have greatly improved in recent years, as Riyadh and its leader de factoSaudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has come to the conclusion that Israel can be a strategic partner against Iranian influence.
To the disappointment of the US and Israel, the kingdom refused to sign the Washington-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020, but Riyadh reportedly gave the green light for Bahrain, over which it still exerts crucial influence, to participate in the normalization agreement. With Israel, along with the United Arab Emirates and Morocco.
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