The Palestinian Authority is refusing to accept tonnes of coronavirus aid from the United Arab Emirates because it arrived on the first ever direct flight (pictured) from the Gulf state to Israel. The aid was being held at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport while United Nations officials seek ways to distribute it. The UAE, like most Arab states, do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. The supplies – which include ten ventilators, personal protective equipment, lithium batteries for charging relevant hospital equipment and cleaning materials – are now believed to be headed for a holding facility in the Israeli city of Ashdod. The PA last week said the flight from the Abu Dhabi to Israel was “a tool for normalisation” and accused the UAE of using the aid as a “pretext” to improve its ties with Israel. Relations between Israel and the Gulf states have improved in recent years in response to their shared fear of Iranian expansionism in the Middle East. But, underlining the sensitivities involved, the UAE’s state-run news agency issued a statement saying only that aid was being dispatched “to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic and its impact in the occupied Palestinian territory”. There was no acknowledgment that the aid had been flown to Israel.
While UN Middle East Envoy Nikolay Mladenov lauded the UAE shipment, Iran issued a strong condemnation. The Islamic republic’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called it “the biggest treachery against their own history and the history of the Arab world”.
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