Israel is set to sell its Iron Dome missile defense system to regional ally Azerbaijan, reports in that country’s media said Thursday.
A battery of the interceptors is ready to be handed over to the Azerbaijan military, Azeri media said according to the Hebrew-language Walla news site. There was no indication of when they were to arrive.
Israel’s Iron Dome system has been used in recent years to intercept and destroy rockets launched by Hamas from the Gaza Strip. It has proven highly effective in protecting civilian populations from the rocket threat.
This would be the first sale of the sophisticated system outside of Israel.
Thursday’s reports could not be independently confirmed. Earlier this year, local media reported a former Azeri military commander claiming Baku had already purchased four of the missile defense batteries from Israel.
Azerbaijan and neighboring Armenia have warred for years over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but ruled by Armenian separatists.
Fighting between the two sides flared up earlier this year. Armenian forces claimed Azerbaijan deployed Israeli-made kamikaze drones in a battle against Armenian “volunteers.” A video released online in April claimed to show the Harop drone carry out a strike on a bus, killing several people.
Muslim Azerbaijan is Israel’s biggest oil supplier, a key recipient of Israeli arms, and a partner in a complicated three-way dance with Iran, which it neighbors.
The two countries signed a $1.4 billion defense deal in February 2012 that focused on drones and missile defense systems.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to visit Azerbaijan and neighboring Kazakhstan this winter as he looks to extend a series of overtures aimed at expanding Israel’s diplomatic reach in Central Asia.
The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.
We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.
Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.