The Israel Airports Authority said on Tuesday Palestinians from the West Bank will be able to fly on charter flights from Ramon Airport near the Red Sea resort city of Eilat to destinations in Turkey.
Under the pilot program, AtlasGlobal and Pegasus Airlines will operate a bi-weekly route to Istanbul and Antalya in their Airbus A321 planes starting at the end of August.
Security officials who spoke to Ynet said that the move was initiated by the Israel Defense Forces's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Major General Ghassan Alian, who serves as the military's liaison to the Palestinians.
"Alian and his people have been working in the past few months on the pilot program to allow West Bank Palestinians to fly from the Ramon Airport," they said.
"The COGAT, the Shin Bet, and Israel Police have been working together to formulate security protocols for the initiative. The first group of Palestinian passengers will leave from Bethlehem by bus and will arrive directly from the West Bank to Ramon Airport."
Without an airport of their own, West Bank Palestinians typically travel to Jordan to catch international flights since they are not from Israel's Ben Gurion Airport without special permission. However, these flights will not be offered to Palestinians from Gaza.
Ramon Airport, which opened in 2019, is located about 300 km (185 miles) from Jerusalem and is designed to take any planes re-routed from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.
It was also meant to serve the residents of southern Israel and ease congestion at Ben Gurion. However, the southern airfield remained desolate throughout most of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Airports Authority said that the Eilat airport will start operating summer flights to various European destinations for the first time in the coming days.
The list includes Batumi, Georgia and Larnaca, Cyprus with Israeli carrier Arkia, and Warsaw and Katowice with Poland's Enter Air.
In addition, Pegasus Airlines will also launch in October its own flight route from Ramon Aiport to Istanbul for Israelis and will operate four weekly flights.