An Israeli-made kamikaze drone has apparently been spotted in the skies over Nagorno-Karabakh in the Caucasus.
Artsrun Hovhannisyan, a press spokesman for Armenia’s defense ministry, said on his Facebook page that the Azerbaijani army was using the using the Israeli Harop drone.
He told the state-run Russian agency Ria Novosti that the drone had apparently fixed on a bus full of “Armenian volunteers” and killed seven of them, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
The war-torn region is located within, and internationally recognized as, a part of Azerbaijan. Most of it is governed, however, by Armenia-backed, ethnic Armenian separatists, who were the majority of the region’s population when Azerbaijan was ruled by the Soviet Union.
Ethnic Armenian separatists boosted by Yerevan seized control of the mountainous region in a war in the early 1990s that claimed some 30,000 lives.
The foes have never signed a peace deal despite a ceasefire in 1994.
On Friday, an unusually bitter round of fighting reportedly broke out between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces, breaking a ceasefire and leaving at least 18 Armenian and 12 Azerbaijani soldiers dead. The Armenians accused the Azerbaijanis of launching an offensive. On Sunday, Azerbaijan announced a unilateral ceasefire.
The Washington Post said the drone’s wing shape and nose suggested it was an Israeli Aerospace Industries Harop, which rams into an object and blows it up. The Harop is small enough to be able to skirt enemy aircraft detection systems and can find targets by radar or radio wave, as well as by remote piloting.
The Post said the Harop drone had also been spotted in use in Syria and Ukraine.
Azerbaijan is Israel’s biggest oil supplier, a key recipient of Israeli arms, and a partner in a complicated three-way dance with Iran.
In 2011, the Israeli defense contractor Aeronautics opened a military drone factory in Azerbaijan.
The two countries signed a $1.4 billion defense deal in February 2012 which focused on drones and missile defense systems.