Israeli World Cup fans forced to take ‘diplomatic layover’ as Qatar refuses direct flights

As per policies by the global footballing body, FIFA requires all World Cup host nations to grant access without discrimination to all ticket holders.

Cyprus-based airline Tus Airways announced it has been given the green light to run flights from Israel to Cyprus and then on to Qatar ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Qatar has refused to accept flights from Israel as it has no diplomatic ties with the occupying state. For this reason, the airline said the journey will include a “diplomatic layover” in Larnaca, Cyprus.

The airline said that it had received authorisation from the Qatari government to run these special flights. The first flight is anticipated to depart on November 20 while the final trip is scheduled for December 15. 

According to 24 News, some 30,000 Israelis are anticipated to flock to Qatar to watch the World Cup, which will take place between 20 November and 18 December. However it is unknown how many of those are Palestinian natives.

Israelis will be able to enter the country via other airlines like Emirates, Etihad, Gulf Air, Royal Jordanian, and Turkish Airlines.

Meanwhile, officials from Qatar have allegedly pushed Israel to permit Palestinian fans to attend the World Cup without obstacles, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported earlier this year.

It remains unclear how many Palestinians have queried to leave the occupying state of Israel for Qatar to watch the games. 

Israel has failed to qualify for the competition, however football fans with Israeli nationality can enter the Gulf state for the World Cup itself.

As per policies by the global footballing body, FIFA requires all World Cup host nations to grant access without discrimination to all ticket holders.

Despite this, Qatar has remained vocal in its criticism of Israeli aggression against Palestinians, repeatedly expressing its staunch refusal to normalise with Israel.

Twenty thousand tickets have already been purchased by Israelis, and 10,000 more are anticipated to be acquired at the last minute when the competition starts in two weeks, according to 24 News.

Telecommunications

Israel has also allegedly requested cellular service in Qatar from FIFA and representatives of the International Telecommunication Union of the United Nations.

The occupying state is reportedly attempting to allow its citizens to use Qatar’s cellular networks with their original SIM cards, according to the Israeli public broadcaster Kan 11.

Israeli Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel sent a letter to the heads of FIFA and the UN to appeal for their help in working with cellular companies in Qatar, which do not cooperate with Israeli cellular companies.

In order to connect to cellular networks in Qatar, Israeli fans currently visiting the country must buy new SIM cards from local businesses.

Israel has consistently obstructed the development of the Palestinian communications sector since 1967, in violation of the Oslo and Paris agreements, which has led to the subpar and expensive telecommunication services that are currently offered in Palestine.

Palestinians in the West Bank only have access to third-generation (3G) mobile networks, while those in Gaza can only access to second-generation (2G), as the world transitions to the fifth generation . This is due to the fact that the importation of specific goods and equipment by the Palestinian Authority is entirely dependent upon Israel’s consent, which it almost never grants.

‘Temporary’ Israeli office

In September, Qatar reportedly turned down Israel’s request to establish a representative office during the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The sources claim that Qatar swiftly rejected the request for the “temporary” diplomatic office made through FIFA in order to support Israeli spectators during the competition.

This comes as local Israeli media alleged talks on the subject between Doha and Tel Aviv, despite denials from the Israeli foreign ministry.

Sources also refuted claims that the Gulf nation and Israel had ever held direct negotiations, noting that FIFA had been contacted with the request.

Following Madrid-Oslo negotiations, Qatar did open an Israeli trade mission in the late 1990s; however, the office was later closed in the 2000s in retaliation for the brutal Israeli war on Gaza. 

During the assault, Israel killed at least 1,440 Palestinians.

More recently, Qatari leaders have taken the lead in denouncing Israeli aggression, including the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Doha has also repeatedly stated its steadfast refusal to normalise relations with the Zionist state as long as it keeps up its ongoing illegal occupation of Palestine, refusing to follow in the footsteps of neighbouring states.

The Gulf state asserts that it is committed to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, a policy that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) adopted ten years ago and which mandates that GCC members refrain from normalising relations with Israel until that country has completely withdrawn from territories it occupied in 1967.

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