Details about the relationship of the military cooperation agreement that Israel and Morocco sealed in Rabat last week are beginning to emerge in the midst of the Western Sahara conflict. The company Industrias Aerospaciales de Israel (IAI) has received payments in the amount of 22 million dollars (19.4 million euros) from Morocco, as confirmed by the newspaper Haaretz by accessing the last two quarterly reports submitted by the main aeronautical manufacturer in the country to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Among other models, IAI manufactures the suicide drone Harop, a small unmanned aircraft with a range of more than 1,000 kilometers, hardly detectable by radars and capable of carrying more than 20 kilos of explosive cargo.
The Polisario Front has denounced the death since mid-November of a dozen civilians in drone bombardments in Western Sahara, which it attributes to the Moroccan Army. Israel Aerospace Industries has limited itself to replicating information from Haaretz that “does not make statements about its sales in Africa.” The Government of Rabat is silent in the face of the Polisario accusations.
The American Weekly Defense News reported in October, citing Moroccan sources, that Israel intends to sell drones to Morocco through the agreement to normalize relations between the two countries established a year ago under the patronage of the United States. The French informative digital portal Africa Intelligence adds that both countries are negotiating the formula to jointly manufacture suicide drones in Morocco.
The financial report for the third quarter of 2021, submitted last week by the IAI company to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, where its shares are listed, details that its aviation division recorded a revenue of 10 million dollars in the second quarter, and another of 12 million dollars in the third quarter, according to the documentation handled by Haaretz, which confirmed in sources close to the operations that both payments had been made by Morocco. The newspaper The Jerusalem Post reported in October that IAI was operating in the Maghreb country through its subsidiary BlueBird Aero Systems, specialized in tactical drones.
The Polisario Front denounced the death of the Sahrawi minor Baani Yeslem Sidi, 15 years old, on November 25 due to the firing of a drone. On November 17, the organization also warned about the death of 11 civilians in two attacks allegedly carried out by Moroccan Army drones.
Months earlier, on April 8, the Polisario Front reported the death of the head of its National Guard, Adaj el Bendir, 65, who was hit by an attack in which a drone intervened when he was withdrawing after an incursion carried out in the area of Western Sahara controlled by the Moroccan Army.
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The Moroccan digital site Le Desk revealed that the operation had been carried out by an Israeli-made drone that marked the target with a laser beam. Then an F-16 fighter from the Moroccan Air Force fired at the head of the Polisario Front Guard, according to the version of the aforementioned Moroccan information portal.
A source from the Polisario Front who spoke on condition of anonymity noted: “Morocco tries to hide the identity of the weapons it is using. But for us it was very clear ”. The same Saharawi source has indicated that it is not surprised by the news about the Moroccan payments made to the Israeli aeronautical company. “The level of interaction between these two countries is not going to be limited to a purchase of drones for 22 million dollars. That is a ridiculous transaction. The real exchange will be much greater. And it is a cause for concern not only for the Sahrawis, but for Spain and France. This is to export the entire Middle East conflict to the Mediterranean ”, he added.
The suicide drones Harop – defined by IAI as “a combination of the capabilities of a drone and a lethal missile” – gave Azerbaijan military superiority over Armenia last year in its last armed conflict over the Armenian enclave of Nagorno Karabakh, with a majority of Azerbaijani population. Israel maintains a close alliance of interests with Azerbaijan, a border country with Iran, a regional arch enemy of the Jewish state. With a small size – 2.5 meters in length and three meters of wingspan – the Harop searches, stalks and identifies targets before exploding on them.
Semi-hidden relationship for decades
Israel and Morocco have now publicly formalized a long-standing, semi-hidden military cooperation relationship for decades. Although they already established ties in the light of day in 1993, in line with the Oslo Accords between Israelis and Palestinians, diplomatic ties were suspended after the outbreak of violence in the Second Intifada in 2000. Former US President Donald Trump It overturned the status quo by recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in December last year in exchange for Rabat normalizing its relationship with Israel.
It is not the first time that Morocco has acquired drones from Israel. In 2013, it purchased, through France, three Heron reconnaissance drones, manufactured by IAI for use in Western Sahara. In 2019, it also acquired from Israel – the world’s eighth largest exporter of weapons – military radar and communications systems through third countries.
“The agreement on intelligence, defense industry and military training will allow us to work on joint projects,” declared the Israeli defense minister, former General Benny Gantz, on November 24 in Rabat after the signing of a memorandum. of understanding with his Moroccan counterpart, Abdelatif Ludiyi. Israel then highlighted “the role of Morocco in maintaining peace and security in the region”, despite the intensification of the war tension in the Sahara and the breakdown of diplomatic relations with Algeria.
The Administration of Democrat Joe Biden has preserved as a valuable diplomatic asset the Abraham Accords, which under the presidency of Republican Trump led to the normalization of relations between Israel and four Arab countries: the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan (now frozen due to their crisis). internal) and Morocco. But while the two monarchies of the Gulf have preferred to put diplomacy and the economy in the foreground and have left security cooperation in the shadow, Morocco has chosen to keep a low diplomatic profile, with liaison offices instead of embassies, and strengthen the tightening of defense ties in a sign of strengthening its military capacity in the midst of active conflicts in its neighborhood.
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