The long-anticipated direct flight between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi took off at 11:21 local time, carrying government officials aboard El Al Boeing 737-900 dubbed “Peace Plane”.

It is the first direct commercial flight between the two countries, as well as the first Israeli flight to cross Saudi Arabian airspace. This historic occasion, signifying normalization of diplomatic ties between long-feuding countries, was made possible by an agreement to establish formal diplomatic relations in mid-August 2020.

“We are about to board a historic flight, the first commercial flight in history between Israel to a Gulf Arab country,” senior White House adviser Jared Kushner said before boarding the plane. “While this is a historic flight, we hope that this will start an even more historic journey for the Middle East and beyond.”

The flight, bearing the number LY971, was initiated by the United States in coordination with Israeli government. It is hoped that the newly-opened route will become a popular one, as international relations in the Middle East enter a new phase.

Meanwhile, it is reported that Boeing 737 is one of several El Al’s planes equipped with advanced Direct IR Countermeasures (DIRCM) system, intended to protect it from anti-air missiles by detecting them and blinding heat-seeking warheads with a laser beam.