A commercial flight to Israel flew through Saudi airspace on Thursday for the first time since Saudi Arabia opened its skies to all flights last month, including to Israel.
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 at Daman. 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 Sea.
Hours before US President Joe Biden flew directly from Israel to the Kingdom for the first time, Saudi Arabia announced it was opening its airspace to all civilian overflights. American history.
Saudi Arabia explained that it had opened its airspace to “all aircraft carriers that meet the authorities’ overflight requirements”. Indeed Israeli companies also use Saudi airspace to shorten their routes. The situation that prevailed prior to this announcement had the effect of prohibiting overflights by non-Israeli companies to or from Israel.
Since last month’s announcement, no Israeli aircraft have flown through Saudi airspace.
On Wednesday, Cannes public broadcaster reported that Israeli airline El Al had received formal permission from Riyadh to begin using its airspace, while Channel 13 said the same day that El Al and Israeli airline Arkia were awaiting the final green light from Saudi Arabia. at the weekend
Both Israel and the United States welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision to lift the ban on overflights as a sign of a major improvement in relations between Jerusalem and Riyadh. Ahead of Biden’s visit, Israeli authorities expressed high hopes for progress toward normalization with Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia raised some hopes, saying the decision had “nothing to do with its diplomatic relations with Israel” and was “in no way a harbinger of new steps” toward normalization.
Saudi Arabia began allowing Israeli airlines to use its airspace in a dedicated air corridor for flights to and from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in 2020, after the conclusion of the Abraham Accords, while not allowing flights to further eastern destinations.
Overflight authorization [donnée le mois passé] This means that flights to India, Thailand, China and other eastern countries will be able to significantly shorten their flight plans. In fact, until then, flights from Tel Aviv to Asia had to cross the Arabian Peninsula, adding two to three hours to travel time.
The travel-friendly decision will also benefit Israeli Muslims interested in attending Haj, as direct charter flights to Saudi Arabia will be chartered for Haj pilgrims every year.
Israel and Saudi Arabia do not officially maintain diplomatic relations, but secret ties have improved considerably in recent years, as Riyadh and its leader IndeedSaudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, concluded that Israel could be a strategic partner against Iranian influence.
To the dismay of the United States and Israel, the kingdom refused to sign the Washington-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020, but Riyadh gave the green light to Bahrain, over which it still exercises decisive influence, to participate in the normalization agreement. with the United Arab Emirates and Morocco as well as Israel.