Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said his country would be cooperating with the United Arab Emirates to fight against the coronavirus pandemic, despite a lack of diplomatic ties.
In a statement, PM Netanyahu said, “This collaboration will be in the areas of research and development and technology, in areas that will improve health security throughout the region”.
He did not give further details, but said that the planned cooperation — to be announced formally by health ministers for Israel and the UAE — “is the result of prolonged and intense contacts in recent months”.
Arab states in the Gulf, including the UAE, have increasingly built informal ties with Israel in recent years amid shared concerns over Iran, which the Jewish state considers its arch-enemy.
“The stronger we are, the more powerful we are at deterring our enemies and bringing our friends closer”, the Prime Minister further added.
His remarks come just days before Israel intends to kick-start US-backed plans to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley.
The plan has sparked the fury of the Palestinians and drawn international condemnation.
The number of coronavirus cases in Israel has risen to 22,400 after 356 new ones were added, according to the health ministry.
The death toll from the virus rose from 308 to 309, while the number of patients in serious condition increased from 46 to 47, out of 186 patients currently hospitalised.
On Thursday, a special ministerial committee decided to impose restrictions on the coastal cities of Bat Yam and Ashdod given their high morbidity rates.
On Wednesday the United Nations, European and Arab powers warned Israel that the plan would deal a major blow to peace.
With 9.4 million infections and 482,923 fatalities, the World Health Organization said the pandemic in many countries has not yet peaked and that it was “still intense,” especially in US.
Meanwhile, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom has said that he expects the number of coronavirus cases around the world to reach 10 million next week.
(With inputs from agency)