First commercial passenger flight from UAE lands in Israel a month after deal

Agencies
October 20, 2020

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Abu Dhabi, Oct 20: The first-ever passenger flight from the United Arab Emirates to Israel has landed near Tel Aviv, a month after the countries signed an agreement normalising ties.

Etihad Airways Flight 9607 landed at Israel’s Ben-Gurion international airport just after 7am on Monday.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner departed for Abu Dhabi several hours later with an Israeli travel and tourism delegation on board, according to an Etihad statement.

The Israeli tourism professionals will be visiting the UAE for a two-day trip organised by Israeli company Maman Group, an airline spokesperson said.

The UAE carrier said it had made “history”.

“Etihad has become the first Gulf airline to operate a passenger flight to Israel. And this is only the beginning,” the airline said on Twitter.

Etihad said it plans to schedule regular passenger flights between the countries in the future and was launching a Hebrew website.

In May and June, Etihad planes had landed in Ben-Gurion carrying medical supplies to help the Palestinians cope with the coronavirus pandemic. The Palestinians, who object strongly to the agreement Israel forged with the UAE and Bahrain, rejected the aid.

In August, Israel and the UAE announced that they had reached a US-brokered deal to normalise ties, following years of discreet economic and security cooperation.

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, ratified the UAE deal last week.

The UAE and Israel were due on Tuesday to sign an agreement to have 28 weekly commercial flights between the countries, a transportation ministry official said.

In Manama on Sunday, Israel and Bahrain signed a deal to establish relations, making the UAE and Bahrain the third and fourth Arab states to normalise ties with Israel, following Israel’s 1979 peace deal with Egypt and a 1994 pact with Jordan.

Many Arab states say they remain committed to the Arab Peace Initiative – which calls for Israel’s complete withdrawal from the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 in exchange for peace and the full normalisation of relations. But speculation has been rife that some countries in the region will soon join the bandwagon.

Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists more states in the Middle East want ties with Israel as priorities have shifted, arguing countries now value lucrative trade opportunities above the Palestinian conflict.

But key player Saudi Arabia has said it will not follow its allies Bahrain and the UAE in establishing diplomatic relations without a resolution to the Palestinian issue.

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News Network
November 26,2020

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Dubai, Nov 26: His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has pardoned 472 prisoners on the occasion of the 49th UAE National Day.

The prisoners belong to several nationalities, state news agency WAM added.

Earlier this week, the UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, had ordered the release of 628 prisoners.

Rulers of Umm Al Quwain and Ajman have also announced pardons.

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Agencies
November 28,2020

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High-ranking Iranian nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, named by the West as leading the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear programme until its disbanding in the early 2000s, has been assassinated in an ambush near Tehran.

Fakhrizadeh was shot “by terrorists” in his vehicle in Absard, a suburb in eastern Tehran, and he later succumbed to his injuries in what amounted to a “martyr’s death”, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

Local authorities had confirmed Fakhrizadeh’s death several hours earlier and also said that several attackers were killed.

Fakhrizadeh served as the head of the Research and Innovation Organisation of the defence ministry at the time of his death.

Iran’s foreign minister alleged the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh bore “serious indications” of an Israeli role, but did not elaborate.

Israel declined to immediately comment on the killing of Fakhrizadeh, whom Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once called out in a news conference saying: “Remember that name.”

Israel has long been suspected of carrying out a series of targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists nearly 10 years ago.

Photos and video shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes through windshield and blood pooled on the road.

The semiofficial Fars News Agency said witnesses heard the sound of an explosion and then machine gun fire. The attack targeted the car Fakhrizadeh was travelling in, the agency said.

Those wounded, including Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards, were taken to a local hospital, the agency said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from Tehran, said that according to Fars News Agency, Fakhrizadeh “came under attack by three-four unknown assailants”.

“They also say three-four people were killed in that incident,” Baig said.

“We have had the head of the Revolutionary Guard say that assassinating nuclear scientists is an attempt by hegemonic powers to stop Iran from gaining new sciences.”

‘Serious indications’ of Israeli role

Iran’s foreign minister called on the international community to condemn “this act of state terror”.

“Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice – with serious indications of Israeli role – shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter on Friday.

In a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UN Security Council on Friday, Iran also said there are “serious indications of Israeli responsibility” in the attack and said it reserves the right to defend itself.

“Warning against any adventuristic measures by the United States and Israel against my country, particularly during the remaining period of the current administration of the United States in office, the Islamic Republic of Iran reserves its rights to take all necessary measures to defend its people and secure its interests,” Iran’s UN envoy, Majid Takht Ravanchi, wrote in the letter, which was seen by Reuters news agency.

Fakhrizadeh, 63, had been a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and was an expert in missile production. Fars said that is why Israeli secret services had long sought to eliminate him for many years.

A military adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Israel of killing Fakhrizadeh to try to provoke a war.

“In the last days of the political life of their … ally [US President Donald Trump], the Zionists (Israel) seek to intensify pressure on Iran and create a full-blown war,” commander Hossein Dehghan tweeted.

He said Fakhrizadeh’s work will continue to be a “nightmare” for Iran’s enemies.

Fakhrizadeh was one of “the people who are fighting without any claims behind the scenes of political battles and achieved martyrdom in this path”, Dehghan tweeted.

The US Pentagon declined to comment on reports of the attack.

‘More detrimental to Iran’s antagonists’

Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, told Al Jazeera that the assassination “is going to make Iranians more assertive when it comes to dealing with its antagonists” and that it was too late for hostile entities to do anything about Iran’s nuclear programme.

“Fifty years ago, if they carried out this attack it would’ve had an impact. But now Iran’s nuclear programme is developed, it’s highly diverse. It has many young scientists and these murders will be more detrimental to Iran’s antagonists, I believe, than Iran,” Marandi said.

“[Fakharizadeh] was one of the first generation of people in Iran who helped develop nuclear technology.”

Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called Amad (Hope) programme. Israel and the West have alleged it was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon in Iran. Tehran has long maintained its nuclear programme is peaceful.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says the Amad programme ended in the early 2000s. Its inspectors now monitor Iranian nuclear sites.

The assassination comes as Trump, who has been fervently backed by Israel in his “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran, is slated to leave office in less than two months after losing the presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden.

In recent weeks, multiple reports by American media have said, citing unnamed sources, that Trump has been seriously considering a military attack on Iran, even on its main nuclear site in Natanz.

In May 2018, Trump unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and imposed harsh economic sanctions that have only escalated since.

In the first European reaction to Fakhrizadeh’s assassination, Carl Bildt, co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the attack may be related to Biden’s promise to return to the nuclear deal.

“It’s not unlikely that this targeted killing was part of efforts to prevent the Biden administration from reviving diplomacy with Iran and going back to the nuclear agreement,” he tweeted.

In the past year, the Trump administration has also tried to make it harder for a Biden administration to come back to the nuclear accord through retargeting Iranian entities and individuals that were already sanctioned with new terrorism-related designations.

Friday’s assassination marks the second high-profile targeted killing of a top Iranian official after IRGC Quds Force chief General Qassem Soleimani’s killing in a US air strike in January this year.

Hillary Mann Leverett, founder of political consultancy group Stratega, said while the killing was not as “shocking” as that of Soleimani’s assassination, it was still “very disturbing”.

“It is certainly one of the most high-level assassinations we have seen in the past year,” she told Al Jazeera over Skype from Mclean, Virginia.

“I think it is intended to stoke tensions particularly in this interim period between the current administration and the Biden administration.”

“The Trump administration have openly said that they will exert what they call ‘maximum pressure’ in its most maximum essence between now and when they have to leave office on January 20,” Leverett said.

Iran has previously called the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” strategy an instance of “economic and medical terrorism”.

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News Network
December 1,2020

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New Delhi, Dec 1: The Government of India is actively working towards the return of its workers back to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain who had lost their jobs and had to be evacuated to India during the Covid pandemic earlier this year, sources told ANI.

Thousands of Indians had to leave the UAE as businesses closed and employees were placed on unpaid leave.

According to the Consulate General of India in Dubai in August, more than five lakh Indians had been registered for repatriation to India from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Quwain, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah since the beginning of the Vande Bharat Mission- a mega exercise to repatriate stranded Indians back to their country.

However, reflecting the close relationship between India and the UAE, the Government there took exceptional measures to take care of the community through a series of supportive initiatives. In this regard, they were assisted by the Embassy and Consulate, who worked in coordination with Indian community organisations. Similar steps were taken in Bahrain and other Gulf kingdoms. This was acknowledged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the August 15 address from Red Fort.

On its part, even at the peak of the Covid-19 crisis, India continued to provide essential goods to the UAE, including during the Ramzan period. It allowed special flights for that purpose. It also facilitated doctors and nurses to return to the UAE as a special gesture, as also to some Gulf countries.

The warm relationship between India and the UAE was recently on display when the Indian cricket board moved the prestigious Indian Premier League to the UAE as conditions were not conducive in India to hold the mega event.

Last week, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar was in the UAE to discuss the advancement of strategic cooperation between India and the UAE as coronavirus crisis seems to ebb away with the imminent roll-out of Covid vaccine. Earlier he visited Bahrain on a similar mission.

Jaishankar met Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and exchanged views on important regional and international issues.

"Thank HH @MohamedBinZayed for receiving me on arrival at Abu Dhabi. Conveyed the greetings and good wishes of PM @narendramodi. UAE's care and consideration of its large Indian community is deeply appreciated," Jaishankar tweeted, adding that he "Discussed advancing our strategic cooperation in the post-COVID era. Exchanged views on important regional and international issues."

Sources said that the objectives of EAM's mission were to facilitate the early return of Indians who came back from the Gulf, retention of those already there, build on India's reputation of reliability to increase trade and take the strategic cooperation to a higher level. This was trade and Diaspora diplomacy at its best, sources added.

Jaishankar, during his visit, also made it a point to meet the Dubai Government. On Sunday, he called on Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and handed over a personal communication from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The EAM's tweets spelt out the nature of these discussions.

"Called on HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, VP and PM of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai. Handed over a personal communication from Prime Minister @narendramodi. Thanked him for taking care of the Indian community," he tweeted.

"Underlined that India had been a reliable partner in all respects during this difficult period. Discussed prospects for our economic cooperation in the post-COVID era," said the EAM in another tweet.

Sources conveyed the sentiment about India in the Gulf has strengthened as a result of the COVID crisis. India's willingness to go the extra mile to keep trade going is widely appreciated. The discipline of the Indian diaspora and the proactive support of Indian missions and community organisations was also widely noted. In contrast, the UAE has just imposed visa restrictions on Pakistan. EAM is expected to visit other Gulf kingdoms ins the coming weeks.

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