Telephone service begins between UAE and Israel as ties open

Telephone service opens between UAE and Israel after Trump helped establish full diplomatic ties between the two nations

  • Telephone service between the United Arab Emirates and Israel began working on Sunday afternoon
  • Websites that had been previously blocked by UAE authorities also opened up
  • It represents the first concrete steps after the countries announced they were establishing full diplomatic ties on Thursday
  • The deal was brokered by President Trump and required Israel to halt its plan to annex land in the West Bank
  • Hundreds of Islamists rallied in Pakistan on Sunday to protest the deal 
  • Israel closed the Gaza Strip’s offshore fishing zone after fighting at the border with Palestinian militants 

Telephone service between the United Arab Emirates and Israel began working Sunday as the two countries opened diplomatic ties, part of a deal brokered by the U.S. that required Israel to halt its contentious plan to annex West Bank land sought by the Palestinians for a future state.

Associated Press journalists in Jerusalem and Dubai were able to call each other from both landline and cellular phones registered to Israel’s country code +972 from around 1:15 p.m.

Over an hour later, Emirati officials acknowledged that Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan had called his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi.

Israeli Communications Minister Yoaz Handel issued a statement ‘congratulating the United Arab Emirates on removing the blocks.’

Phone service between the United Arab Emirates and Israel opened on Sunday. Pictured: Tel Aviv City Hall  in Israel is lit up with the flag of the United Arab Emirates

Emirati officials acknowledged that Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (left) had called his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi (right)

‘Many economic opportunities will open now, and these trust-building steps are an important step toward advancing states´ interests,’ Handel said.

The step toward peace between the two countries comes as cross-border fighting at Gaza Strip’s fishing zone caused Israel to shut it down.

Also Sunday, Israeli news websites that had previously been blocked by UAE authorities, like the Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post and YNet, could be accessed without using means to bypass internet filtering in the Emirates.

In the UAE, a federation of seven sheikdoms on the Arabian Peninsula, a recorded message in Arabic and English would typically play prior to Sunday saying calls to +972 numbers could not be connected. 

The advent of internet calling allowed people to get around the ban, though these too were often interrupted.

Some in Israel used Palestinian mobile phone numbers with +970 numbers, which those in the UAE could call.

The connection of phone service represents the first concrete sign of the deal between the Emiratis and Israelis.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced Thursday they were establishing full diplomatic relations in the U.S.-brokered accord.

President Trump, Jared Kushner, Treasury Secretary Steven Munchin and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien announced the deal in the Oval Office

The historic deal delivered a key foreign policy victory to President Donald Trump as he seeks re-election and reflected a changing Middle East in which shared concerns about archenemy Iran have largely overtaken traditional Arab support for the Palestinians.

Palestinians say it puts a just resolution of the Middle East conflict even farther out of reach by undermining an Arab consensus that recognition of Israel only come in return for concessions in peace talks. That removes a rare source of leverage for the Palestinians.

The agreement will make the UAE the third Arab country, after Egypt and Jordan, to have full, active diplomatic ties with Israel. 

The countries announced it in a joint statement, saying deals between Israel and the UAE were expected in the coming weeks in such areas as tourism, direct flights and embassies.

Early Sunday, the Emirates’ state-run WAM news agency announced a UAE company had signed an agreement with an Israeli company for research and study of the coronavirus pandemic.

The move has sparked anger among some who see it as a betrayal of longstanding efforts to establish an independent state of Palestinians.

In Pakistan, hundreds of Islamists rallied Sunday to denounce the Emirati-Israeli deal. 

Palestinian protesters set aflame cut-outs showing the faces of (L to R) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and US President Donald Trump, during a demonstration in Nablus in the occupied West Bank last week 

The Jamaat-e-Islami party chanted slogans against the United States and burned effigies of President Donald Trump. They also set ablaze American and Israeli flags.

The deal also has enraged Iran and Turkey, regional rivals to the UAE.

On Sunday, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces called the UAE’s decision a ‘disaster.’ Mohammad Hossein Bagheri urged Abu Dhabi to ‘revise’ its position.

‘If an incident happens in the Persian Gulf and violates the national security of the Islamic Republic of Iran, even a tiny bit, and we see it from the UAE, we will not tolerate it,’ Bagheri said.

Meanwhile, Israel closed the Gaza Strip’s offshore fishing zone Sunday following a night of cross-border fighting with Palestinian militants, the most intense escalation of hostilities in recent months.

Palestinian militants in Gaza fired two rockets into southern Israel after Israeli airstrikes targeted sites belonging to the territory’s militant Hamas rulers.

The military said the Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepted the two rockets that militants in Gaza launched at southern Israel. But police said rocket fallout caused damage to a house in the town of Sderot, and paramedics treated a 58-year-old man for minor wounds from the exploding glass.

The Israeli army said the strikes were a response to explosive balloons launched by Hamas-affiliated group over the border, and attempts by Palestinian protesters to throw explosives at the Israel-Gaza perimeter fence and soldiers stationed along it.

A Palestinian boy inspects the damage in his family home following Israeli airstrikes in Buriej refugee camp, central Gaza Strip

Israel has accused  Hamas, an Islamist militant group, of being responsible for the attacks 

Dozens of Palestinians took part in the protests. The military said the protesters ‘burned tires, hurled explosive devices and grenades towards the security fence and attempted to approach it.’

The Gaza health ministry said Israeli gunfire at protesters wounded two Palestinians.

Israel holds Hamas, the Islamist militant group ruling the Gaza Strip, responsible for all attacks emanating from the Palestinian territory.

Incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip have caused extensive damage to Israeli fields in recent days. It comes as Hamas, like other Palestinian factions, denounced the United Arab Emirates for agreeing to formal ties with Israel.

A Palestinian boy inspects the damage in his family home following Israeli airstrikes in Buriej refugee camp, central Gaza Strip

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the fishing zone off the coast of Gaza closed until further notice in response to the rocket fire.

Following a meeting Sunday with the top army brass, Gantz said in a statement that Israel ‘will respond forcefully to any violation of sovereignty until complete quiet is restored in the south. If Sderot isn´t quiet, Gaza won´t be either.’

Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade of the Gaza Strip since Hamas took power in an armed coup in 2007. Israel has fought three wars with Hamas in the Gaza Strip in the years since.

The two sides have largely upheld an informal truce, and fighting has ceased almost entirely since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. 

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