Palestinian Airline is back in the skies after being grounded for seven years. Being able to transport passengers in Palestinian airplanes is a symbol of Palestinian statehood dreams. Even though the carrier is a tiny operation with just 48 seat turboprop planes with two weekly flights.
“My hands were shaking when I bought the ticket.. and I said the name of the carrier ‘Palestinian Airlines’”, said recent passenger Zuhair Mohammed, a 38 year old teacher from Gaza to Associated Press.
The airline company has formally existed for 15 years. In the late 1990’ies when the Palestinian appeared on the verge of a statehood deal with Israel, Palestinian Airlines operated from Gaza International airport and flew passengers to several destinations I the Middle East. At that time the company planned to expand to destinations in Europe. Those ambitions were crushed by the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation in September 200 followed by the collapse of US-led peace talks.
Over the next year, Israeli troops destroyed the Gaza airport and Palestinian airlines was forced to move its base to El-Arish, an Egyptian coastal resort about 60 kilometers from Gaza. Seven years ago, the airline stopped flying altogether after its reservoir of passengers dried up. It had mainly served Gazans who, starting in 2005, could no longer reach El-Arish because of increasingly frequent Israeli closures of Gaza’s borders. Flights to Saudi Arabia for Muslim pilgrims from Gaza are set to begin later this week.
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