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UN renews call for two-state solution

Sporadic clashes already broke out between the Israeli military and Palestinians in the West Bank, days after the truce and may ignite an escalating conflict at any time, reports Asian Lite Newsdesk

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland has described a cease-fire in Gaza and Israel as fragile, and called for talks toward a two-state solution to end the cycles of violence.

The past days witnessed a deeply worrying escalation in the Gaza Strip between Israeli military forces and Palestinian armed groups, primarily the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Wennesland told a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East.

On Sunday night, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office announced in separate statements that a cease-fire had been agreed, he said, noting that cease-fire remains in place so far.

Citing the crucial role played by Egypt in securing the cease-fire alongside the United Nations, as well as support by related parties, Wennesland said the de-escalation of the situation helped prevent the outbreak of a full-scale war and allowed for the delivery of much-needed humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza starting earlier Monday.

But he pointed out that the most recent escalation had its roots in deeper tensions.

“I want to make the Council aware of the following: the cease-fire is fragile. Any resumption of hostilities will only have devastating consequences for Palestinians and Israelis and make any political progress elusive,” he said in his briefing to the Security Council.

Wennesland reiterated calls to the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, along with the international community, to strengthen diplomatic efforts to return to meaningful negotiations toward a viable two-state solution.

“Ultimately, the underlying drivers of this and previous escalations remain. These cycles of violence will only cease when we achieve a political resolution of the conflict that brings an end to the occupation and the realization of a two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 lines, in line with UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements,” he said.

Rocket fired from Gaza at southern Israel Israeli army

How long will it last?

A ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip appears to be holding since Sunday evening, ending a rare preemptive strike by Israel at the besieged enclave.

Israel’s three-day attacks, which came when the Gaza-based Jihad vowed to retaliate for the arrest of a senior Jihad member in the West Bank, are regarded by analysts as a muscle-flexing by Israel’s ruling Yesh Atid party to win a broader base in the run-up to the parliamentary elections.

It’s feared that a new round of clashes might break the truce any time, given the deep-seated grudge between Israel and Palestinian factions, especially the Gaza-ruling Hamas, and the lack of effective truce monitoring.

Palestine urges US to remove PLO from terror lists

Election interests

Key Jihad military facilities were bombed, and 44 people including two high-ranking commanders, were killed in Gaza during the three-day airstrikes by Israel.

Caretaker Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid claimed that the Israeli operation has achieved all goals and that Jihad’s “entire military high command was killed.”

It was unusual for Israel to make a preemptive strike on the Palestinian territory. Ibrahim Abrash, a political science professor from Gaza, told Xinhua that Lapid and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz were motivated by their election interests to launch the attacks with an aim to gain reputation and support.

Israel will hold parliamentary elections in November, the 5th in less than four years. Now polls show the centrist Yesh Atid party led by Lapid could win fewer seats than the right-wing Likud bloc led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Through the latest confrontation, the Israeli government also intended to divert attention from its crackdown on Palestinians in the West Bank, including the endless arrests and land confiscation, and expansion of Jewish settlements, said Abrash, also a former official in the Palestinian Authority.

An easier target

In this round of conflict with Gaza, the Israeli military set their target very clearly: only the Jihad, not the Gaza-ruling Hamas, which is much more influential in the enclave with stronger military prowess.

Israel did not want to play “overtime” in the conflict, considering that prolonged conflict could drive Hamas to join.

“There might be unnecessary failures and losses, no matter in terms of economic or military, and “therefore it sought to end the operations as soon as possible,” Palestinian political commentator Ismat Mansour said.

On the other hand, the Jihad was believed to also want to reach a truce to stop the massive hemorrhage of members, as several commanders were killed and no signal of the release of its senior leader Bassam al-Saadi, whose arrest triggered off the recent conflict.

On Hamas’ inaction on the Israel-Jihad conflict, Palestinian political analyst Nur Oda believed that it was probably because that Hamas has yet fully recovered from the bloody 21-day military conflict with Israel in May 2021.

Experts also hold that this time Israel may further divide the Palestinian armed groups in the coastal enclave and weaken their internal cohesion.

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‘Gaza attack to last a week’

In Rafah, on Gaza’s border with Egypt, women and children were trapped under rubble following an Israeli strike, the strip’s civil defense unit said…reports Asian Lite News

The death toll from escalating violence in Gaza had risen to 29 on Sunday, including six children, as Israel extended its bombardment of Palestinian militants who have retaliated with a barrage of rockets.

The updated count from health authorities in the Hamas Islamist-run territory said six children were among those killed since the start of the “Israeli aggression” on Friday, in addition to 253 people injured.

But Israel said it had “irrefutable” evidence that a stray rocket from Islamic Jihad militants had been responsible for the death of multiple children in Jabalia, northern Gaza, on Saturday. It was not immediately clear how many children were killed in the incident in Jabalia. 

Israel’s military has warned its aerial and artillery campaign against Islamic Jihad could last a week, but Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said Cairo is talking “around the clock” with both sides to ease the violence.

Israel has said it was necessary to launch a “pre-emptive” operation against Islamic Jihad, as the group was planning an imminent attack following days of tensions along the border with Gaza.

Civilians meanwhile took refuge in air raid shelters on the Israeli side, with AFP journalists hearing sirens warning of incoming fire in the Tel Aviv area on Saturday evening.

In Rafah, on Gaza’s border with Egypt, women and children were trapped under rubble following an Israeli strike, the strip’s civil defense unit said.

Rescue workers were digging through the site where a top Islamic Jihad commander, Khaled Mansour, was reportedly targeted by an Israeli strike on Saturday.

There was no specific confirmation of Mansour’s death, but the head of the Israeli army’s operations directorate, Oded Basiok, said in a statement that the entire “senior leadership of the military wing of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza has been neutralized.”

Daily life in the strip has come to a standstill, while the electricity distributor said the sole power station shut down due to a lack of fuel after Israel closed its border crossings.

Gaza’s health ministry said the next few hours will be “crucial and difficult,” warning it risked suspending vital services within 72 hours as a result of the lack of electricity.

In Gaza City, resident Dounia Ismail said Palestinians have become accustomed to preparing a “survival bag” of items such as money and medicine.

“This latest escalation brings back images of fear, anxiety, and the feeling that we are all alone,” she told AFP.

On the Israeli side of the frontier, the Magen David Adom emergency service said two people were hospitalized with shrapnel wounds and 13 others were lightly hurt while running for safety.

In Kibbutz Nahal Oz, an Israeli community beside the Gaza border, resident Nadav Peretz said he has been “in the bomb shelter or around it” since Friday.

“We recognize that on the other side too there is an uninvolved civilian population, and on both sides children deserve to enjoy their summer vacation,” the 40-year-old said.

Islamic Jihad is aligned with Hamas, but often acts independently. Both are blacklisted as terrorist organizations by much of the West.

Hamas has fought four wars with Israel since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, including the conflict last May.

A flare-up with Islamic Jihad came in 2019, following Israel’s killing of Baha Abu Al-Ata, Jabari’s predecessor. Hamas did not join the fray in that conflict.

Hamas’s moves now could prove crucial, with the group facing pressure from some to restore calm in order to improve economic conditions in Gaza.

The UN humanitarian chief for the occupied Palestinian territories, Lynn Hastings, urged the warring sides to allow “fuel, food, and medical supplies” to be delivered to Gaza amid the worsening crisis.

On Friday, the health ministry reported “a five-year-old girl” was among those killed by Israeli fire.

The girl, Alaa Kaddum, had a pink bow in her hair and a wound on her forehead, as her body was carried by her father at her funeral.

The Gaza strikes follow the arrest in the occupied West Bank of two senior members of Islamic Jihad, including Bassem Al-Saadi, whom Israel accuses of orchestrating recent attacks.

Israel on Saturday broadened its operation against Islamic Jihad, announcing the arrest of 19 people in the West Bank it said were members of the group.

Israel has conducted a wave of often deadly raids in the West Bank since mid-March in response to lethal attacks on Israelis.

ALSO READ-‘Israel threats against Gaza unacceptable’

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VFS Global to provide Israel visa services in UAE

This is the first time the Israel Embassy in the UAE has outsourced its visa application process….reports Asian Lite News

Effective 1 August 2022, residents of the UAE can apply for their Israel visas at the VFS Global Visa Application Centre in Abu Dhabi. The centre accepts applications for tourism, business, student, conference, medical, relatives and family visit categories.

The contract was signed by H.E. Mr. Danny Gadot, Ambassador of Administration and Consul Affairs, Israel Embassy in the UAE, and Mr. Atul Marwah, Head – Middle East & North Africa, VFS Global, earlier this year. This is the first time the Israel Embassy in the UAE has outsourced its visa application process.

Atul Marwah, Head – Middle East & North Africa, VFS Global, said, “We are excited to embark on this new partnership with the Israel Embassy in the UAE, bringing in VFS Global’s domain expertise to provide a smooth and efficient visa application journey. In February 2022, the Israel Ministry of Tourism signed a partnership with VFS Global as their tourism representation agency in the UAE. This new association is another feather in the cap for VFS Global’s association with this beautiful country.”

Applicants will benefit from a range of optional services offered by VFS Global, including passport withdrawal service, video conferencing for child applicants, form filling assistance, SMS updates, and courier return, among others. Applicants can also opt to submit their applications from VFS Global’s Premium Lounge, enjoying end-to-end personalised assistance throughout the submission process.

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‘Israel threats against Gaza unacceptable’

Bassam al-Saadi, a prominent leader of Islamic Jihad movement, another faction in the Gaza Strip committed to violently resisting Israel, was arrested by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank early this week….reports Asian Lite News

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said that the threats of Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz against the Gaza Strip were unacceptable, amid rising tensions after Israeli soldiers arrested an Islamic Jihad leader.

Haniyeh made the remarks during a phone conversation with Tor Wennesland, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, according to a statement issued by the Hamas leader’s office in Gaza.

“The threats of the Israeli leaders, especially Benny Gantz, are unacceptable,” Xinhua news agency quoted Haniyeh as saying.

Bassam al-Saadi, a prominent leader of Islamic Jihad movement, another faction in the Gaza Strip committed to violently resisting Israel, was arrested by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank early this week.

Since then Israeli forces have been on high alert near the Gaza Strip for fear of retaliation.

After al-Saadi was detained, Gantz threatened to use force against the Gaza Strip to bring life back to normal in the Israeli towns in the vicinity of the coastal enclave.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007 and is currently ruled by Hamas.

“If it is not possible to return to the routine of normal life in the Gaza Strip’s vicinity, there will be no normal life inside the Gaza Strip either,” the Defence Minister told Israel Radio.

Haniyeh called on the United Nations to “constrain the Israeli occupation and prevent it from harming the Palestinian people,” adding that the UN “has a major role in this context”.

ALSO READ: Israel’s Ramon Airport opens for Palestinians

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‘Israel-linked spies seek to bomb defence centre’

The Ministry announced on Saturday that Iran’s security forces had arrested “all members of an Israeli spy network” that intended to carry out terror operations in Iran…reports Asian Lite News

The Iranian Intelligence Ministry has said that the arrested members of an “Israel-linked spy network” had sought to carry out a bomb attack in one of Iran’s sensitive defence industry centres, official news agency IRNA reported.

Israel provided the terrorists with the most complex combined techniques for identifying the target’s geographical position and inflicting massive damage, said a Ministry statement on Wednesday quoted by IRNA.

Among the seized items were eight strong bombs and eight small ones, four handguns, a large number of bullets, forged identity documents, and other personal items, the statement added.

The Ministry announced on Saturday that Iran’s security forces had arrested “all members of an Israeli spy network” that intended to carry out terror operations in Iran.

Israel has not commented on Iran’s allegations yet.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Intelligence Minister said that in recent months Iran carried out a number of successful operations against the Zionist Israel regime besides thwarting the regime’s hostile actions.

The Iranian intelligence minister Esmaeil Khatib made the comments in a meeting with the speaker of the Iranian Parliament Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf with the participation of some other Ministry of Intelligence officials.

The Intelligence Minister pointed to the Zionist regime and terrorist group’s conspiracies and hostile actions against Iran’s security and said that the Iranian intelligence forces achieved remarkable success in neutralizing and countering the enemy’s hostile plans against Iran.

 “We managed to carry out a number of successful operations against the Zionist regime besides countering its hostile measures against Iran which shows Iran and its intelligence forces ’security strength,” the minister said.

The speaker of the Iranian Parliament Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, for his part, appreciated Iranian intelligence forces’ efforts in countering enemy’s hostile actions against Iran and said that the ministry of intelligence plays an important role in the country’s security.

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Israel launches plan to rebuild Tiberias

“The many years in which Tiberias has been neglected came to an end,” said Israeli Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov, adding “we are putting the city back on Israel’s top tourist cities list”…reports Asian Lite News

Israel has launched a plan to rebuild Tiberias, a northeastern resort city by the Sea of Galilee that was shattered in a storm in May, the Ministry of Tourism announced.

The Israeli government has approved 90 million shekels (about $26.1 million) for the plan, among which 64 million shekels go to the renovation and development of the city’s promenade area that was heavily damaged by the strong storm, the Ministry said on Monday in a statement.

“The many years in which Tiberias has been neglected came to an end,” said Israeli Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov, adding “we are putting the city back on Israel’s top tourist cities list”.

The storm left the city with pits, collapsed trees, flooded restaurants, and damaged beaches in the southeast of the Sea of Galilee, which is a freshwater lake, Xinhua news agency reported.

ALSO READ-Taiwan is to East Asia what Israel is to West Asia

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Taiwan is to East Asia what Israel is to West Asia

Takeover of Taiwan by the PRC would upend the security of the Indo-Pacific, writes Prof. Madhav Nalapat

It remains to be seen whether Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, will continue in that office once the two-year term of the present batch of legislators ends. The decision may not necessarily be hers to take, in that she would have to make way for a new Speaker of the House, were the Republican party to wrest the majority from the Democrats.

The inflationary and recessionary trends caused by the Biden-Johnson sanctions on Russia as a consequence of its war on Ukraine have made the current US President unpopular. Instead of rewarding lower income voters, who backed him in large numbers during the Presidential poll, Biden is showering money on Ukraine. In the process, he is delighting weapons manufacturers not just in the United States but worldwide.

Not to mention the oil industry, which is reaping the benefit of a huge spurt in oil and gas prices as a consequence of US-led sanctions on Russia that have been added on to those imposed on major oil producers such as Venezuela and Iran. Thanks to such policies by the US and some of its allies, the cost of oil is far above what it needs to be to ensure global economic health. Countries in Asia are starting to be worried about the quality of leadership exhibited within NATO.

Such worthies are coming up with Alice in Wonderland plans such as enforcing a price cap on Russian, but not on US or UK, oil. The manner in which the Atlantic Alliance has reacted to the war in Ukraine appears to have dealt a death blow to any hopes of recovering its primacy within the international system. At the same time, NATO has proved unable to prevent the dismemberment and destruction of Ukraine. In the fantasy world that the present occupants of the White House and Number 10 Downing Street live in, their performance during the Ukraine war is taken as a deterrent to China’s attempting a takeover by force of Taiwan.

Given the economic pain to NATO member states that its own sanctions on Russia are causing, the thinking within the Central Military Commission (CMC) in Beijing is veering around to the view that (after being mauled by their own sanctions on Russia) there is likely to be zero appetite within NATO to impose similar sanctions on China. After all, the other superpower is a country that is many times more closely linked in commerce with the Atlantic Alliance than Russia. In Ukraine, there has since 2014 been an indoctrination designed to create Russophobic mindsets in those elements of the public that do not speak Russian as the mother tongue.

Military vehicles of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army arrive in Moscow, Russia, Aug. 14, 2021. (Photo by Yu Xiaoping_Xinhua)

Yet even within convinced Russophobes, hopes for the entry on Ukraine’s side of NATO during the war with Russia have faded. Instead, fatigue has set in as a consequence of the damage that the country has suffered by continuing its senseless war rather than working out a peace settlement with Moscow.

Neither President Biden nor Boris Johnson appears to be concerned about the fact that the longer the war continues, the harsher will be the peace terms insisted on by President Putin as a condition to stop the fighting. Should Liz Truss be the next PM, the Cowboys and Injuns approach of Boris Johnson to the Ukraine conflict is likely to continue, to the detriment of the UK. Public opinion within NATO is not what it was during the intoxicating days in the initial weeks of the conflict, when it was accepted wisdom that (a) Russia would soon be forced to withdraw, and (b) Putin would be ousted from the Kremlin.

Instead, the Russian leader is moving towards fulfillment of his stated aim of ensuring that Ukraine never again becomes a threat to Russia, something that even the embedded media in NATO countries is no longer able to cover up. Given the rapid decline within the broader public within NATO of the earlier appetite for continuing the war with Russia over Ukraine, the Central Military Commission (CMC) in Beijing is developing the conviction that citizens in Taiwan would not follow the Ukrainian example and themselves take up arms to throw out invaders from the PRC.

As for intervention by the US, according to President Biden, his generals in Washington are terrified even by the prospect of Speaker Pelosi visiting Taiwan. Given the rising unpopularity of Xi as a consequence of the mismanagement of the economy, diplomacy and handling the pandemic, pressure on him to follow the example of Putin and attack Taiwan is mounting. Of course, the Russia-obsessed fantasists in the White House believe the contrary is true, just as they believed that Russia would be easy prey for a Ukraine boosted by NATO firepower. A Commander-in-Chief, who walked away even from confronting a ragtag force such as the Taliban, does not inspire confidence as an ally.

It is in the context of declining confidence in the value of a security partnership with the US led by Joe Biden that a probable visit to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ought to be seen. Mike Pompeo showed the courage to brave the wrath of not just the CCP leadership but the well-resourced PRC lobby in the US to visit Taiwan. Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper is following in his wake, as will perhaps Mike Pence later. Pompeo met with that country’s leaders as a former Secretary of State. There is a world of difference between Speaker Pelosi going to Taiwan as distinct from a later visit by ex-Speaker Pelosi.

Speaker Pelosi

The US Speaker is showing spine, which is more than can be said for the leader of her party and the nation, President Biden. Neither he nor the current Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are known for the firmness on matters relating to China of Shinzo Abe. The death of the latter has removed from the highest councils of Japan a voice that would have been steadfast in calling for steps to repel any military invasion by China across the Taiwan Straits. The reason being given by the assassin seems to be a cover story, given that there are dozens of politicians in Japan who are far closer than Abe ever was to the religious group identified by the killer as being the trigger for his act.

Abe’s killer is a traitor to Japan and not just a murderer, and a comprehensive investigation into the ecosystem he drew sustenance and inspiration from is essential rather than a cover-up of the truth as took place in the “enquiry” by President Biden’s commission to investigate the origins of Covid-19.

Takeover of Taiwan by the PRC would upend the security of the Indo-Pacific, and severely compromise that of not just Japan and South Korea but of all democracies in the Indo-Pacific immediately. The world would move closer to a situation where the PRC is dominant. Should General Secretary Xi believe that the consequences for his country would be temporary and bearable, he would be inclined to allow the PLA to fulfill its longstanding goal of attempting a takeover by force of a tech superpower.

Taiwan is to East Asia what Israel is to West Asia. By braving the ire of the White House (and, if Biden is to be believed, the Pentagon) and going ahead with her visit to Taiwan, Speaker Pelosi would show the world that she understands the importance of the country at the centre-point of the global tech industry with a resoluteness yet to be demonstrated by President Joe Biden.

ALSO READ: Understanding China’s intent on Taiwan

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Israel warns Lebanon over Hezbollah actions

Gantz warned that Israel is “prepared in all areas — land, sea, air and cyber,” if attempts by Iran or its allies will continue…reports Asian Lite News

Israel has warned Lebanon that actions by Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based armed group and party, can spark a regional escalation.

“Israel is prepared to act against any threat,” Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said during a tour at the Lebanese border on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported, citing a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s office.

Lapid and Defence Minister Benny Gantz took the tour a day after the Israeli army intercepted what it said was a drone sent by the Iran-backed Hezbollah group that crossed into the country from Lebanon.

“We do not seek confrontation but whoever tries to attack our sovereignty or Israeli citizens — will learn very quickly that they have made a serious mistake,” Lapid said.

Gantz warned that Israel is “prepared in all areas — land, sea, air and cyber,” if attempts by Iran or its allies will continue.

“We see the crisis in Lebanon, which is hurting its citizens,” he said. “Lebanon and its leaders know very well that if they choose the path of confrontation — they will be hurt and get burned severely. If they choose the path of stability — they will be helping the Lebanese people,” he said.

Hezbollah has sporadically sent drones into Israeli airspace, defining them as reconnaissance missions.

Hezbollah earlier said it launched three unarmed drones on July 2 on a reconnaissance mission toward the Karish gas field in Eastern Mediterranean, which were all downed by the IDF.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Wednesday on an occasion to mark the 2006 Lebanon-Israel war that his party will take the necessary military measures to prevent Israel from infringing on Lebanon’s rights.

Recently, Lebanese President Michel Aoun urged the US to activate its mediation in the indirect border demarcation negotiations between Lebanon and Israel.

“It is not acceptable to delay the process of demarcating the southern maritime borders,” Aoun was quoted as saying in a statement on Monday released by Lebanon’s Presidency.

He stressed the need to activate the American mediation carried out by US Energy Envoy, Amos Hochstein to reach a quick conclusion, which he believed would “enable Lebanon to benefit from oil and gas in its water while maintaining stability on its borders”.

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Israel cancels expanded work permits for Gazans in response to rocket fire

Israel has decided to cancel a recently increased quota of work permits for Palestinian labourers from Gaza in response to rocket attacks…reports Asian Lite News

The decision was announced by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians, on Saturday.

“Hamas takes responsibility for everything that happens in the Gaza Strip,” said the statement from COGAT.

Earlier on Saturday, four rockets were fired into southern Israel by militants in the Gaza Strip, with no casualties or damages reported. In response, Israeli fighter jets launched an airstrike in the Strip against what it said the Hamas military targets.

The incident occurred hours after US President Joe Biden completed his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Xinhua news agency reported.

The decision to increase the work permits was taken earlier in the week, as part of a series of gestures Israel made ahead of Biden’s visit.

Israel gives thousands of work permits to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, allowing them to work in Israel to make a living.

ALSO READ:Israel hails Saudi decision to open airspace to ‘all carriers’

The Hamas militant organisation has fought several conflicts with Israel since it ruled the Gaza Strip in 2007. Since then, Israel has imposed a strict blockade on the territory, which Hamas has vowed to break through violence.

The Gaza Strip is considered one of the poorest territories in the world.

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Israel hails Saudi decision to open airspace to ‘all carriers’

Israeli airlines had been banned by Saudi Arabia from flying over the kingdom’s airspace, making flights between Israel and Asia longer and costlier.

Israeli officials lauded on Friday Saudi Arabia’s decision to open its airspace to “all carriers,” including those from Israel, as a sign of the budding normalization process between the two countries.

Just ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit on Friday, the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation tweeted that the kingdom has decided to open its airspace “to all carriers that meet the authority’s requirements for overflying,” with no specific reference to Israel.

Israeli airlines had been banned by Saudi Arabia from flying over the kingdom’s airspace, making flights between Israel and Asia longer and costlier.

“This is only the first step. We will continue working with the necessary caution, for the sake of Israel’s economy, security and the good of our citizens,” Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement released by his office, voicing his appreciation for the Saudi decision to open airspace.

Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov thanked Saudi Arabia “for advancing a new vision of the Middle East,” tweeting that the decision will lower the price of flights to East Asia.

For Transport Minister Merav Michaeli, the decision also means “a step toward (Israeli) better and stronger relations with the countries of the Middle East … critical to Israel’s security and economy.”

Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej described the move as an “exciting dream,” noting Israel’s Muslim citizens will now enjoy “cheaper, direct chartered flights to the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca.”

Israel and Saudi Arabia have had no diplomatic relations yet, despite growing informal relations between the two erstwhile foes in recent years. (ANI/Xinhua)

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