On Monday morning, in international skies over the Arabian Gulf, as two separate civilian aircraft from the UAE were flying towards their destinations in Manama, both were intercepted and buzzed by fighter jets from Qatar’s Air Force. Both interceptions took place well under an hour from each other, and both were witnessed by the respective cockpit crews and passengers on board. What’s more, the incidents were also witnessed by air traffic controllers from the airport in Manama who were monitoring the routine flights and were party to the radio transmissions — and who saw the interceptions unfold on their radar screens. This verification is important, given that Qatar has said that both buzzing incidents did not happen, despite the pilots and passengers on board witnessing the repeated close fly-bys.
This incident represents a very serious escalation by the Qatari government, and that it is now willing to endanger the lives of some 400 persons on two civilian aircraft speaks to its recklessness. The flights were using an air corridor into Bahrain, one that is used many times daily by aircraft from both nations. It is an incident that jeopardised the safety of the planes and passengers, and it is a blatant and unacceptable action that has been reported to authorities at the highest level responsible for civilian aircraft movement and safety.
Since the beginning of last June, the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have isolated Doha diplomatically through a range of measures, all with the intent of making sure the leadership there returns to the international fold, lives up to its previously given undertakings to the Gulf Cooperation Council nations, and to rejoin coordinated international efforts to fight terror. The quartet has put forward 13 demands to prevent Qatar from aiding and abetting terror and giving voice and funds to those who spread sedition.
Now, through the wilful and deliberate use of its Air Force war planes on civilian aircraft in international airspace, in undisputed corridors and in a consistent manner — both incidents were in the same general area and took place within the parameters of the same mission — the government of Qatar has shown itself to be an active participant in terrorising those on board the two civilian flights. Clearly, Qatar has no interest in resolving this dispute, has no regard for the safety of air passengers, and has upped the ante in the most dangerous and deliberate fashion. That has been duly noted by all.