Palestinian PM says not informed of latest UAE aid flight via Israel

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FILE PHOTO: A cargo plane operated by Etihad Airways offloads aid related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) for Palestinians, at Ben Gurion Airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel May 19, 2020. Israel Airports Authority office/Handout via REUTERS

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Tuesday said he was unaware that a plane from the United Arab Emirates was to fly to Israel carrying medical aid for the Palestinians.

His remark cast doubt over whether the Palestinians, long at odds with Israel over occupied land they seek for a state, would accept the supplies after they rejected a similar shipment last month, saying it had not been coordinated with them.

“If any country, whether Arab or European or international country wants to help us, we welcome that. We don’t say no – as long as it is not conditional and as long as it is fully coordinated with us,” Shtayyeh told reporters in Ramallah.

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His Palestinian Authority views with sensitivity any attempts to direct aid or assistance to areas under its limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank without its expressed knowledge and coordination.

Etihad Airways earlier said it would operate a rare, second flight to Israel carrying the medical aid on a cargo-only service from Abu Dhabi. The UAE foreign ministry did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

State-owned Etihad on May 19 operated the first known flight by a UAE airline to Israel. It transported supplies to help the Palestinians combat the new coronavirus after the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) coordinated a 16-tonne shipment from the UAE.

Israel does not have diplomatic relations with the UAE or any of the other five Gulf Arab countries, and there are no commercial flights between them. However, shared concerns over Iran’s influence in the region have led to a discreet thaw in ties between Israel and the Arab Gulf in recent years.

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The Palestinians have warned against Arab normalisation with Israel, which has pledged to annex the West Bank’s Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war.

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