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Emirates pilot suspended for refusing to fly to Israel



Emirates airline has suspended a Tunisian pilot for refusing to fly to Israel. Moneem Saheb Tabaa confirmed the suspension on his Facebook page, which he has since closed.

“God is [the] only [one] who takes care of me…” said Tabaa. “I do not regret it.” The pilot is suspended pending a formal hearing.

As news of his suspension spread across social media, many activists denounced Dubai-based Emirates and praised Tabaa for his defiant stance in opposing last year’s normalisation deals between Israel and several Arab states. The UAE was the first of the recent states to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, along with Bahrain, Sudan and, more recently, Morocco.

Tunisia has maintained consistently that it has no intention of following suit and normalising with the occupation state. In a statement late last year, the Tunisian foreign ministry said, “As Tunisia respects the sovereign positions of other countries, it affirms that its stance is principled, and changes in the international scene will never affect it.”

Upon being elected in 2019, Tunisia’s President Kais Saied said that Palestine is engraved in the hearts of Tunisians and that, “Palestine is not a lot of land which is registered as real estate.”

Following Morocco’s normalisation with Israel, the Speaker of the Tunisian Parliament, and head of Ennahda Movement, Rached Ghannouchi, said, “We were shocked by this step, which contradicted the Arab consensus as expressed by the Arab Peace Initiative. We support the rights of the Palestinian people in accordance with the principle of Arab and Muslim brotherhood as well as international law.”

Both Tunisia and Algeria have prevented Israeli aircraft from using their airspace for flights to and from Morocco, forcing them to take an indirect route via Europe. Israeli airlines began operating direct flights between Tel Aviv and the UAE in August. Etihad Airways was the first UAE airline to fly to Israel, carrying medicine bound for Palestine. According to Israeli news website Globes, Emirates is expected to launch its flights from Dubai to Tel Aviv next month.

READ: Tunisia: ‘We reject normalising relations with Israel, our position will not be affected by international developments’

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Palestinian inmate dies after receiving Israel vaccine



Palestinian inmate Maher Saasaa has died after recently receiving the coronavirus vaccine, according to the Palestinian Commission of Detainees’ and ex-Detainees’ Affairs.

The Israel Prisons Service announced late Wednesday the death of Saasaa, 45, from Qalqilah, in northern West Bank, who suffered from several chronic diseases.

The cause of death was unclear, according to an official statement.

Israeli authorities told his family that an autopsy would be performed Thursday.

The family said he was exposed to medical negligence during his detention for more than 15 years.

Saasaa was the father of six children.

READ: Israel will be responsible for more Palestinian deaths if it withholds the Covid-19 vaccine

“We prepared a detailed report about the health situation for the detainees in Israeli jails, and we will send it via Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the human rights organizations to make an effort to protect the Palestinian inmates,” said Qadri Abu-Baker, head of the detainee commission.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said delegates are still visiting jails and facilizing the transmission of messages between detainees and families since visits were stopped at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March.

It said it has visited more than 95% of jails and detention centers, ICRC spokesman in Palestine, Yahya Maswadeh, told Anadolu Agency.

“We are in intensive contact with the Israeli jails services about the plan for vaccination of Palestinian inmates, and we give our recommendations for giving priority for vulnerable groups inside the jails,” Maswadeh added.

The Israeli government decided to start vaccinating prisoners in different jails but risks remain and the numbers of infected detainees have been increasing recently, Abu-Baker told Anadolu Agency.

READ: Israel sharing COVID-19 data with Pfizer to fine-tune vaccine rollout

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Morocco, Israel agree to launch direct flights



Israel and Morocco inked an agreement Thursday to operate direct flights between their countries, according to the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Anadolu Agency reported.

The daily reported the deal without disclosing additional details. Moroccan authorities have yet to comment.

It is the third aviation deal signed recently between Israel and Arab countries, after similar agreements with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain in recent months.

Former US President Donald Trump announced Dec. 10 that Morocco and Israel agreed to normalize relations.

Morocco became the fourth Arab country to agree to normalization with Israel in 2020, after the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan.

Morocco: Israeli romantic novel translated into Arabic for the first time

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