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World Cup 2022: Qatar to allow direct flights from Israel to carry fans

Planes carrying Israelis and Palestinians to operate on 'temporary' basis between the two countries, who do not have relations
Travellers are pictured in the new central concourse building at the Hamad International Airport on November 10, 2022, in the Qatari capital Doha, ahead of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup football tournament (AFP)

Israeli and Palestinian supporters will be able to take direct charter flights between Israel and Qatar for the World Cup, Fifa announced on Thursday.

The body said the flights would be operating on a "temporary basis" between the two countries, which do not have diplomatic relations. “

The agreement on direct flights does not change Qatar's stance on normalising relations with Israel which is linked to Palestinian statehood, a Qatari official said.

Fifa said the flights will be chartered by an airline whose name has not been specified but which "already has landing rights in Qatar".

"We are delighted that an agreement has been reached for Israeli and Palestinian fans to visit Qatar and attend matches during the Fifa World Cup," said the football world governing body's president, Gianni Infantino.

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'With this deal, Israelis and Palestinians will be able to fly together and enjoy football together'

- Gianni Infantino, Fifa president

"With this deal, Israelis and Palestinians will be able to fly together and enjoy football together."

More than 10,000 Israeli and Palestinian fans have tickets, according to diplomatic sources cited by AFP.

Although a number of Qatar's Gulf neighbours have established official relations with Israel in recent years, the country has so far not followed suit, although there have been unofficial ties for many years.

Alon Ushpiz, director-general of the Israeli foreign ministry, welcomed the move and said Israel had "secured all guarantees, including access to consular services for Israelis during their stay in Qatar", according to the Jerusalem Post.

For its part, Qatar said the move showed it was "respecting Fifa's policies and hosting requirements including the right of everyone to attend matches".

"Because of this agreement, Palestinians will now be able to enjoy the first World Cup in the Arab and Muslim world," the official added.

"This also includes the requirement that Palestinian ticket holders and media are able to travel on these chartered flights with no restrictions as they have an equal right to enjoy the tournament, which is made extra special by it being the first World Cup to be hosted in the Arab and Muslim world," said a Qatar World Cup spokesperson, according to the Jerusalem Post.

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