Israeli passengers who were on a flight from Seychelles that made an emergency landing in Saudi Arabia are seen after their arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, Aug. 29, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

First passenger flight from Saudi Arabia arrives in Israel after emergency landing

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First passenger flight from Saudi Arabia arrives in Israel after emergency landing

Israeli passengers who were on a flight from Seychelles that made an emergency landing in Saudi Arabia are seen after their arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, Aug. 29, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

(JTA) — What appears to have been the first-ever passenger flight between Saudi Arabia and Israel has taken place — even though the two countries have not yet established diplomatic relations.

An Air Seychelles flight to Tel Aviv made an emergency landing on Monday in the the port city of Jeddah, where passengers spent the night. On Tuesday, they flew from there to Ben Gurion International Airport.

“I really appreciate the warm way in which the Saudi authorities treated the Israeli passengers,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “I really appreciate the good neighborliness.”

The incident comes amid what are reported to be U.S.-brokered talks to establish ties between the two countries. Saudi Arabia would become the fifth Arab country to normalize relations with Israel in recent years, following the four deals known as the Abraham Accords that were struck in 2020.

Relations between the countries have been softening in recent years, and Saudi Arabia began allowing Israeli planes to pass through its airspace last year. Last week, Israelis participated in a global video game competition in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, and reported having a positive experience. Because there are no direct flights between the countries, the Israeli competitors traveled through Dubai — a city they could not reach directly before the United Arab Emirates established ties with their country in 2020.

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