Israir plane
Israir planeiStock

Saudi Arabia reportedly closed its airspace to Israeli flights on Tuesday morning for unknown reasons, delaying an Israir Airlines flight for five hours at Ben Gurion Airport before departing for Dubai, i24NEWS reports.

Israir flight 661, which was scheduled to take off at 9:00 a.m. local time, was apparently held up because Saudi Arabia refused to grant the necessary permits even though an El Al flight took off for Dubai on Tuesday afternoon with permission to fly through Saudi airspace.

While Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have formal relations, Saudi Arabia said in November it would allow Israeli flights to use its airspace en route to Dubai.

Without permission to fly over Saudi Arabia, the Tel Aviv-Dubai route would be unsustainable as flights from Israel to the United Arab Emirates would take over eight hours instead of three.

In recent years, there have been reports of a possible rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, particularly in the wake of the Abraham Accords, which saw Israel signing normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

Saudi officials have repeatedly stressed that while the country backs full normalization with Israel, a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority that results in a Palestinian state must come first.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly held a secret meeting in November in which they discussed the possibility of normalizing relations between their two countries.

Subsequent reports said the Crown Prince pulled back from a normalization deal with Israel largely because of the US election result. Riyadh denied the meeting had even taken place.