update deskMiddle East

Flight with 100-plus Israelis makes emergency landing in Saudi Arabia

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks Riyadh for its "good neighborliness" after Israelis spend the night in Jeddah.

Aerial view of the new King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 2020. Credit: Skytrax via Wikimedia Commons.
Aerial view of the new King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 2020. Credit: Skytrax via Wikimedia Commons.

A commercial flight from the Seychelles to Tel Aviv carrying 128 Israelis made an unscheduled landing in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Monday night.

Air Seychelles flight HM022 was forced to land due to an electrical problem, although the pilots did not declare an emergency touchdown.

“All the passengers are safe and a few minutes ago, a replacement flight departed [for Jeddah in order] to return the passengers and continue their flight to Israel. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has been updated,” Air Seychelles said in a statement.

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said that it was working toward a “quick, safe solution.”

The Israeli passengers stayed overnight at the airport hotel in Jeddah. The replacement flight was to depart for Israel on Tuesday morning.

“I very much appreciate the warm attitude of the Saudi authorities toward the Israeli passengers whose plane was in distress and had to make an emergency landing,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a video message on Tuesday.

“I’m glad everyone is coming home. Thank you for the good neighborliness,” he added.

In July 2022, Saudi Arabia announced the opening of its airspace to “all carriers,” paving the way for Israeli commercial airlines to overfly the kingdom and thereby drastically reduce flight times from the Jewish state to major destinations in Asia.

King Abdulaziz International Airport, also known as Jeddah International Airport, is a designated landing site for flights to Israel that encounter difficulties while overflying Saudi Arabia.

Jerusalem is also working on an agreement to allow direct flights for its Muslim citizens to travel to Mecca for the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Last week, the Biden administration told the Israeli government that it would have to make considerable concessions to the Palestinians if a U.S.-brokered normalization deal with Saudi Arabia is to materialize.

In an interview earlier this month with Bloomberg Television, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed confidence that his government could achieve some form of normalization with Riyadh in the coming months.

“If there is a political will, there will be a political way to achieve normalization and formal peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia. … I’d bet on it,” Netanyahu said.

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