A Qatar Airways-owned aircraft, reportedly ferrying top Qatari officials, touched down in Tel Aviv on a Saturday morning. Notably, the flight did not take a direct route from Doha, a deliberate choice to prevent it from being recognized as the inaugural direct flight from Qatar to Israel.
The plane in question was a Qatar Executive-owned Gulfstream G650ER, a high-end private jet charter arm of Qatar Airways Group. This small aircraft, which can accommodate 13 passengers, two pilots, and a cabin crew member, is known for its impressive range, capable of flying 7,500 nautical miles without stopping.
On this particular journey, the Qatari delegation first flew from Doha to Larnaca, Cyprus, for a technical stop. After a brief stay, they continued to Tel Aviv, landing at Ben Gurion Airport. The flight from Doha to Cyprus took approximately three and a half hours, followed by a short 40-minute leg to Tel Aviv. After spending just over an hour in Israel, the aircraft returned to Larnaca before heading back to Qatar.
The purpose of this visit, occurring amidst a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas facilitated by Qatar, was not immediately clarified by Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, Israeli media speculated that the Qatari delegation was there to discuss the ceasefire and the release of Israeli hostages.
This event follows a historical precedent set in May 2020 when Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi flew a non-stop commercial flight to Tel Aviv, a precursor to the UAE-Israel diplomatic relations established through the Abraham Accords. Before this, flights between the UAE and Israel typically included a stopover in a neutral country like Cyprus.
During the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar allowed a few third-country registered planes to make an exception. Interestingly, the inflight maps on Qatar Airways flights do not show Israel, instead labeling the area as Palestine.