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Fears grow as video shows Saudi fighter jet firing missile at a Qatari civilian aircraft

The Independent logo The Independent 18/8/2017 Jeff Farrell

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Saudi Arabia has released a simulated video showing one of its airforce fighter planes firing a missile at a Qatari civilian jet – in the latest twist in the Gulf crisis.

In an apparent overt threat to the fellow Arab nation, a voiceover in the graphic animation says that the Saudi authorities have “the right to shoot down” any aircraft that enters their airspace

The footage comes just weeks after the country severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar after accusing the emirate of supporting Islamist extremists groups such as Isis.

Viewers believe the simulated video of the fighter jet downing a Qatar Airways civilian plane is "beyond provocative" and is meant to scare off would-be passengers from flying with the country’s national airline.

But aviation experts dismissed the graphic animation as “sensationalist” and pointed out that aircraft from the Gulf state have a “legitimate” right to fly in the skies over Saudi Arabia.

The footage, which lasts nearly two minutes, was aired by Saudi-owned TV news network Al Arabiya and shows a Russian-made Su-30 Flanker shoot down a Qatari Airbus A320.

A voiceover says: “International law permits states to shoot down any aircraft that violates a state’s airspace, classing it as a legitimate target, especially if flying over a military area.”

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Social media users described the graphic animation as a warning by Saudi Arabia to passengers who fly with Qatar Airways – as the two Gulf nations remain at loggerheads.

Abby wrote: “Putting out this video is beyond provocative. It's intended to make people worry about flying Qatar for fear of a navigation error costing them their life. You don't make this video without a point.”

John Harper pointed out “the political implication of a state sanctioned news channel airing a graphic with a missile directed” at the Airbus.

Aviation analyst Alex Macheras said it was “irresponsible and unprofessional” for the Saudi network to air the graphic animation but said it had not been taken seriously in the Gulf region.

He told The Independent: “The video was full of inaccuracies, and I think it has more to do with a sensationalist approach to covering the Gulf crisis by Al Arabiya, than a real 'threat' from Saudi Arabia.

“It was irresponsible and unprofessional of the network to air such a report – and passengers flying in the Middle East region should have no fear or worry about the safety of their aircraft.”

He added: “Qatar's reaction has been mostly with humour and wit. It's a report that has more of a Hollywood appeal, rather than truth and reality. On the whole, this Al Arabiya report hasn't been taken seriously, and I think that's for the best.”

Saudi Arabia today re-opened its land border with neighbouring Qatar to facilitate visitors from there who want to travel to the annual hajj pilgrimage, in the first signs of a thaw in the stand-off.

It came after Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman received an envoy from Doha, according to the Saudi Press Agency, in the first high-level public encounter between the nations since the crisis erupted.

But Ali Shihabi, from the Washington-based thinktank Arabia Foundation, warned: “This is a goodwill gesture towards the Qatari people and not a breakthrough with the Qatari government.

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