After absence from Dubai, Israeli defense firms make return to Singapore Airshow

Elbit, Rafael and IAI tightlipped about ongoing war during Asia’s largest aerospace and defense gathering this week

Guests stand next to the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems booth at the Singapore Airshow in Singapore on February 21, 2024. (Roslan Rahman / AFP)
Guests stand next to the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems booth at the Singapore Airshow in Singapore on February 21, 2024. (Roslan Rahman / AFP)

SINGAPORE (Reuters) — Israel’s defense industry was out in force at the Singapore Airshow this week, making its return after being largely absent from the Dubai air show in November in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war, a subject that was off limits at the Asia summit.

The Defense Ministry and 11 of its defense contractors attended Asia’s largest aerospace and defense gathering, including Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Elbit Systems ESLT.TA.

IAI, Rafael, Elbit and the Defense Ministry all declined to comment on the war in Gaza, including the performance of their own weapons.

“We don’t discuss weapons,” Ziv Avni, vice president of business development at Elbit, told Reuters at the unveiling of its latest aerial drone, which a placard said could carry “loitering munitions for covert and precise airstrikes.”

Israel has faced growing international criticism over its months-long military campaign in Gaza, which the Hamas-run health ministry claims has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians — an unverified figure that is believed to include more than 12,000 Hamas combatants Israel says it has killed since the start of the war.

Israel began its operation in Gaza after Hamas’s October 7 murderous rampage through southern Israel, during which it killed close to 1,200 people and took 253 hostages, more than 100 of whom remain captive.

Aircraft models of China’s COMAC C919 and AR J21 are on display at the COMAC pavilion during the first day of the Singapore Airshow in Singapore, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP/Vincent Thian)

Delegates at the Singapore event didn’t discuss the war and it didn’t dampen appetite for Israel’s missiles, spy gear and aerial drones, two Israeli industry officials at the show told Reuters, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Groups of men in military uniform, mostly from Asian countries, could regularly be seen shuffling into the booths of Israeli defense companies for conversations.

Unauthorized public assemblies and protests over political situations in other countries are banned in Singapore. But there was some criticism online about Israeli defense firms at the air show. IAI, Rafael and the Israeli Defense Ministry did not respond to requests for comment about the online criticism.

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