West Bank Palestinians to start flying from Israel’s Ramon Airport to Turkey

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Palestinians from the West Bank will be able to fly on special flights from Ramon Airport, near the Red Sea resort city of Eilat, to destinations in Turkey, Israel’s Airports Authority said on Tuesday.

The move is the latest step in Israel offering economic easements to Palestinians in the absence of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and follows pressure from the United States.

US President Joe Biden visited Israel last month.

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Without an airport of their own West Bank Palestinians, who cannot fly from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport without special permission, typically travel to Jordan to catch international flights. These flights will not be offered to Palestinians from Gaza.

Under the pilot program the flights will run twice a week starting at the end of August to Istanbul and Antalya on Turkish carriers Atlas and Pegasus and using Airbus A321 aircraft, the airport authority said.

Ramon Airport, which opened in 2019, is about 300 kilometers (185 miles) from Jerusalem and designed to take any planes re-routed from Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv.

Foreign carriers such as Ryanair, Wizzair and Lufthansa began to fly non-stop to older Eilat airports in 2015 during winter months after Israel offered airlines 60 euros ($61) per passenger brought on direct flights from abroad.

But the COVID-19 pandemic largely halted those flights.

The Airports Authority said that for the first time, summer flights to various destinations in Europe from Eilat would start in the coming days. They include Batumi, Georgia and Larnaca, Cyprus on Israeli carrier Arkia, and Warsaw and Katowice on Poland’s Enter Air.

Pegasus in October will fly Israelis to Turkey with four flights a week, the authority said.

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