Israel’s Defense Ministry claims to be investigating reports that senior executives of an Israeli defense company struck an Armenian military position with a “suicide” drone recently in an effort to sell such weapons to Azerbaijan.
The Israeli daily “Maariv” reported on Sunday that representatives of the company, Aeronautics Defense Systems, travelled to Azerbaijan over a month ago to finalize a contract for the sale of its Orbiter 1K unmanned aircraft capable of carrying special explosive payload.
Citing a formal complaint lodged with the ministry, the paper reported that two Israeli drone operators rebuffed Azerbaijani officials’ demand to demonstrate the use of the deadly drone by hitting the Armenian position in an undisclosed area with it. But other, more senior representatives of the company agreed to launch the deadly craft towards the target, the paper said.
One of the operators subsequently resigned from the company in protest, while the other plans to follow suit soon, according to “Maariv.”
Reacting to the report, the Israeli Defense Ministry said: “The claim is being examined by the relevant parties at the ministry.” The complaint was filed with the ministry's Defense Export Controls Agency, reported another Israeli daily, “Haaretz.”
Aeronautics Defense Systems, meanwhile, denied the report, saying that “the operational action was carried out by the purchaser alone.”
According to Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian-backed Defense Army, the Azerbaijani military most recently attacked its frontline positions with a suicide drone on July 7. Colonel Armen Gyozalian, the commander of an army unit stationed in northeastern Karabakh, told the “Hay Zinvor” newspaper earlier this month that two of his soldiers were lightly wounded in the incident. No Armenian military hardware was damaged in that drone attack, he said.
The Azerbaijani army heavily used similar suicide drones manufactured by another Israeli company, Israel Aerospace Industries, during the April 2016 hostilities in Karabakh, which left at least 190 soldiers from both sides dead. Baku had gotten hold of them as part of multimillion-dollar defense contracts signed with the Jewish state.
The Israeli weapons sold to Azerbaijan have included not only various types of unmanned aircraft but also air-defense systems and anti-tank rockets. Aeronautics Defense Systems, the Oribter manufacturer, reportedly started supplying drones to the Azerbaijani military in 2008.
Armenia has long expressed concern at the Israeli-Azerbaijani arms deals, saying that they undermine international efforts to end the Karabakh conflict. The Armenian Foreign Ministry on Monday reacted cautiously to the Israeli newspaper report. “We are aware of problems and monitoring them,” a ministry spokesman told Tert.am.
The report came less than three weeks after Israeli Minister of Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi visited Yerevan in an apparent bid to improve his country’s frosty relationship with Armenia. Hanegbi signed a number of bilateral agreements with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and Culture Minister Armen Amirian. He also met with Prime Minister Karen Karapetian.