JERUSALEM (AP) – The Palestinian Authority said it was not informed about a shipment of coronavirus aid sent by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Israel earlier this week on the first known direct commercial flight between the two countries.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said on Thursday the Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was not consulted about the aid shipment.
“We read about this in the newspapers,” he said. “We were not informed about this and there was no coordination with us on either end, with our ambassador in the Emirates or here.”
Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kailah said the authority cannot receive such assistance without prior coordination, “because what is important is that we have sovereignty here”.
The UAE said it delivered 14 tonnes of protective gear, medical items and ventilators to help curb the spread of the new virus in the Palestinian territories. Etihad Airways confirmed that it sent a cargo plane directly from Abu Dhabi to Israel ferrying humanitarian aid for the Palestinians.
The flight on Tuesday came amid recent signs of warming ties between Israel and Arab countries that have long boycotted it over its occupation of land the Palestinians want for a future state. The UAE and Israel have no diplomatic relations but are widely believed to have forged back-channel security ties over their shared enmity toward Iran.
It was unclear where the aid went after it arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport. The Israeli military body in charge of civil affairs in the territories declined to comment.
The shipment could be further complicated by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ announcement earlier this week that he is ending security coordination with Israel over its plans to annex large parts of the West Bank in line with the Trump administration’s Middle East plan. Abbas said the Palestinians would no longer abide by agreements with Israel dating back to the Oslo accords in the early 1990s. Those agreements created the Palestinian Authority and underpin its political, economic and security relations with Israel. The Palestinians have made similar threats in the past, and it’s unclear whether they can follow through on them.
Senior Palestinian officials said commanders in the field have been instructed to cut all contacts with Israel. They said Palestinian forces have also withdrawn from areas near Jerusalem where Israel had granted them permission to operate in order to enforce measures to contain the virus outbreak. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief media.
The aid from the UAE will likely be sent to Gaza, which is governed by the Islamic militant group Hamas. The UAE hosts Mohammed Dahlan, a former senior Palestinian official and Abbas rival who has friendly relations with Hamas and has worked with it to provide aid to the territory, where he has a base of support.
Authorities in Gaza have reported at least 35 new coronavirus cases in the last three days, bringing the total number to 55. All the new cases were detected inside facilities near the border where all returnees are forced into mandatory quarantine for 21 days.
Hamas officials said they are investigating whether the virus has spread beyond the quarantine facilities and considering a curfew in the crowded territory that is home to two million people. Gaza’s healthcare system has been severely degraded by a blockade imposed on the territory after Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. Three wars between Hamas and Israel, and feuding between the rival Palestinian factions, have also taken a heavy toll on local infrastructure.