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Morocco airline to launch direct Israel flights a year after normalization

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Morocco's national carrier Royal Air Maroc (RAM) said Tuesday it would start regular direct flights to Israel, taking off a year after the kingdom normalized ties with Tel Aviv.

The service linking the countries' respective commercial capitals Casablanca and Tel Aviv will take off on December 12, two days after the first anniversary of Morocco's “resumption of relations” with Israel under a deal brokered by the former US administration.

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The service aims to “respond to the needs of the Moroccan community in Israel which has strong links with its country of origin”, the airline said in a statement carried by the official MAP news agency.

“It also aims to allow tourists and businesspeople to travel between Morocco and Israel,” it said.

The airline said it would offer three flights per week, later moving to five.

The decision comes after the first direct commercial flight between the countries, by Israeli airline Israir, landed in Marrakesh in July.

That was soon followed by a visit by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

Morocco's normalization of ties with Israel followed similar announcements by a string of other Arab countries starting with the United Arab Emirates, in deals brokered by former US president Donald Trump's administration.

In return, Washington recognized the kingdom's sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Morocco's ancient Jewish community is the biggest in North Africa, with some 3,000 still living in the kingdom.

A further 700,000 Israelis are descended from Moroccans and have kept strong links with the country.

Before the coronavirus pandemic and the normalization deal, tens of thousands of Israeli tourists visiting Morocco each year had to pass through a third country.

Morocco and Israel previously established ties in 1993 but Morocco had broken them off at the start of the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) in 2000.

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