Israel denies report that Saudi Arabia purchased Iron Dome

Defense Ministry and Rafael, the Israeli defense contractor that manufactures the missile defense system, reject account in Al-Khaleej

Adam Rasgon is a former Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

The Israeli Navy tests a ship-based Iron Dome missile defense system, which is declared operational, on November 27, 2017 (Israel Defense Forces)
The Israeli Navy tests a ship-based Iron Dome missile defense system, which is declared operational, on November 27, 2017 (Israel Defense Forces)

The Defense Ministry denied on Thursday an Arabic media report that Saudi Arabia had purchased the Iron Dome missile defense system.

“We deny the existence of a deal to sell Iron Dome to Saudi Arabia,” the Defense Ministry said in an emailed statement.

Al-Khaleej Online, an Arabic news site with offices in the UK and the Persian Gulf, had reported earlier in the day that Saudi Arabia bought Iron Dome from Israel, citing unnamed diplomatic sources.

The report did not specify how many Iron Dome batteries Saudi Arabia had allegedly purchased. However, it asserted that the first battery will arrive in Saudi Arabia in December and be placed near its border with Yemen.

For more than the past three years, a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting a war against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The report also claimed that Saudi Arabia had “convinced Israel to sell [Iron Dome]” through American interlocutors in “secret tripartite meetings that took place in Washington.”

Iron Dome protects against short-range rockets, mortars and artillery shells. In the 2014 Israel-Gaza war, Iron Dome intercepted hundreds of projectiles launched at Israeli towns near the Gaza border and other parts of the country.

An armed Yemeni tribesman from the Popular Resistance Committees supporting forces loyal to Yemen’s Saudi-backed fugitive President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi looks through binoculars as they continue to battle Shiite Houthi rebels in the area of Jaadan, in Marib province east of the capital, Sanaa, on May 9, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/STR)

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, a state-owned defense contractor that manufactures Iron Dome alongside the Israel Aerospace Industries company, also denied the report in Al-Khaleej Online.

“The report is not true,” Amit Zimmer, a spokesman for Rafael, told The Times of Israel.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have no official diplomatic ties. However, in an interview in November 2017 with an Arabic newspaper, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said that the Israel is prepared to share intelligence with Saudi Arabia as part of their joint efforts to curb Iranian influence in the region.

For his part, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman also has recently made remarks that appeared to recognize Israel’s right to exist, in a stark departure from the monarchy’s past policies.

In an interview published in April in the Atlantic, the Saudi royal said: “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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