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

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

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His remarks, after the flight was announced by Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, cast doubt over whether the Palestinians - at odds with Israel over occupied land they seek for a state - would accept the supplies.

The Palestinian Authority is sensitive about attempts to direct aid or assistance to areas under its limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank without its knowledge and coordination.

The Palestinians, who have no airports and typically receive aid via Jordan, Egypt or Israel, rejected a similar shipment of medical supplies to combat the coronavirus on May 19, 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 the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The aid was coordinated through the United Nations, which was handling the logistics, the UAE foreign ministry said.

“The UAE’s only concern is to support the Palestinian people through this challenging period, in line with its historic support,” it said.

State-owned Etihad also operated the May 19 flight, the first known flight by a UAE airline to Israel.

Etihad said on Tuesday it would operate a second flight to Israel carrying medical aid on a cargo-only service from Abu Dhabi. Israel’s foreign ministry said the Etihad flight landed at Tel Aviv on Tuesday evening.

Aid would be transferred to Gaza and the West Bank by the UN and a unit of Israel’s defence ministry, it said.

Israel has no diplomatic relations with the Gulf Arab countries and there are no commercial flights between them. But shared concerns over Iran’s regional influence have led to a discreet thaw in ties.

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 a 1967 war.

Reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Dan Williams in Jerusalem, Rami Ayyub in Tel Aviv and Alexander Cornwell in Dubai; Writing by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Timothy Heritage