Etihad Airways celebrates first-ever commercial flight from Abu Dhabi to Israel

The first-ever commercial passenger flight connecting the United Arab Emirates to Israel was carried out this week as the two Middle Eastern nations form a closer relationship.

Etihad Airways flight 9607, operated on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, landed at Ben Gurion Airport on Monday morning (local time) before returning to Abu Dhabi later in the day with an Israeli travel and tourism delegation onboard.

"Dawn of a new era," Etihad captioned a video of the flight on Facebook.

On Twitter, it continued: "Today, we make history. Etihad has become the first Gulf airline to operate a passenger flight to Israel. And this is only the beginning... Salam and Shalom!"

The airline plans regular passenger flights between Israel and the UAE, where it is based, and has also launched a dedicated Hebrew website.

The flight from Abu Dhabi International Airport to Ben Gurion Airport, which is located 20 km southeast of Tel Aviv, took two hours and 56 minutes.

It took place a day after the two nations agreed to enable 28 weekly direct flights, following their signing of a normalisation agreement last month.

The US-brokered agreement outraged Palestinians, whose leaders have called it a betrayal of a longtime Arab stance that recognition of Israel would come only after Palestinians obtain their own independent state.

Earlier this year, Etihad landed planes at Ben Gurion Airport carrying medical supplies for Palestinians amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Palestinian authorities rejected the aid as its delivery had been organised with the Israeli government.

A few other special flights have been operated between the UAE and Israel, but this week's Etihad flight marked the first commercial passenger flight - likely the first of a around 1450 annual flights connecting the two nations.