Plane carrying 128 Israelis forced to land in Saudi Arabia

Passenger jet with Israeli travelers suffers malfunction, is forced to make unscheduled landing in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

An Air Seychelles flight carrying Israeli passengers to Tel Aviv was forced to make an unscheduled landing in Saudi Arabia over a technical problem.

Israel does not have diplomatic relations with the Saudi kingdom, though US, Israeli and Saudi officials are apparently moving closer towards a breakthrough to normalize ties.

Air Seychelles flight HM022 was en route from the island of Mahe, off Africa’s east coast, to Tel Aviv with a reported 128 Israelis on board when it experienced what the airline said was an unspecified technical issue. Israeli media reported that the malfunction was electrical in nature.

Authorities at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah prepared for the possible emergency landing of the Airbus 320, though this proved unnecessary.

“All the passengers are safe and a few minutes ago, a replacement flight departed [for Jeddah so as] to return the passengers and continue their flight to Israel. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has been updated,” the airline’s statement said.

The Israelis spent the night in hotels in Jeddah and are due to arrive in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it has been in contact with the passengers, the airline and other Israeli authorities to resolve the issue, dispatching a plane Tuesday afternoon to bring the passengers to Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the Islamic kingdom for its “warm attitude” and “neighborliness” in handling the incident.

“I greatly appreciate the warm attitude of the Saudi authorities to the Israeli passengers whose flight was in distress and was compelled to make an emergency landing in Jeddah.”

“I am pleased that they are all coming home. I greatly appreciate the good neighborliness.”

Saudi Arabia opened its airspace to Israeli civilian overflights in July.