Jordan has allowed Israel to fly military drones over the country en route to Syria in order to monitor the situation there and, should the need arise, target chemical weapons caches in the civil war-torn country, the French daily Le Figaro reported Monday.
King Abdullah II made the decision during US President Barack Obama’s visit to the region in March, the report said.
Jordan and Israel both fear the spread of hostilities in Syria, and especially dread the possibility of chemical weapons and other game-changing munitions falling into terrorist hands.
The Israeli drones, according to an unnamed expert quoted in the report, fly at night to avoid detection.
While their main purpose is surveillance and intelligence-gathering, “they are also armed and therefore can hit a target anywhere in Syria.”
Israel’s drones are technologically superior and able to evade detection by the Russian air-defense systems used by the Syrian army, the expert was quoted as saying.
Jordan offered Israel two flight corridors to Syria in order to enable aircraft to take off from air force bases in both the Negev and the center of the country, the report said.
Syria’s two-year-long conflict has repeatedly spilled over into neighboring states, while the violence at home has forced more than 1 million Syrians to escape their homeland to seek safety abroad.
Many of the refugees have fled to Jordan, where they have put an immense burden on the cash-strapped Jordanian government.
In recent months, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abdullah conducted several secret meetings in Amman, Israeli defense officials said.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Atlantic in March, Abdullah said his relationship with Netanyahu is “very strong. Our discussions have really improved.”
In December, Netanyahu was said to have traveled to Jordan to discuss possible methods for destroying Syria’s sizable chemical weapons stockpile, including air strikes or a ground assault.
According to the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, Amman was reluctant to put its weight behind such action.