Israeli carrier launches direct flight to Morocco

AFP , Sunday 25 Jul 2021

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said last week that he would visit Morocco shortly after the Israir service was launched

File photo: An Israeli worker in full hazmat suit sprays disinfectant on the stairs of an Israir air
File photo: An Israeli worker in full hazmat suit sprays disinfectant on the stairs of an Israir airplane at Ben Gurion airport near Israel's Tel Aviv (AFP)

sraeli carriers on Sunday launched the first direct commercial flights between the Jewish state and Morocco since the countries normalised diplomatic relations in a US-brokered deal last year.

About 100 passengers were on an Israir flight that departed from Tel Aviv to Marrakesh, airline spokeswoman Tali Leibovitz told AFP, adding that two to three flights per week were planned on the route.

National airline El Al later announced it too had launched its a service to Marrakesh on Sunday, and planned five flights per week there and to Casablanca.

At a ceremony sending off the El Al flight attended by Moroccan envoy Abderrahim Beyyoudh, Israel's Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov said the service would boost "trade, tourism and economic cooperation between the countries", according to an El Al statement.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said last week that he would visit Morocco shortly after direct flights commenced.

Morocco was one of four regional states to normalise ties with Israel in 2020, along with Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates.

The move came as the administration of former US president Donald Trump recognised Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara, a disputed and divided former Spanish colony.

Morocco is home to North Africa's largest Jewish community, which numbers around 3,000. Some 700,000 Jews of Moroccan origin live in Israel.

Rabat had a liaison office in Tel Aviv but relations came to a halt during the 2000-2005 second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

The normalisation deals between Arab states and Israel have been deemed a "betrayal" by the Palestinians, who believe the process should only follow a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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