Egypt is set to buy the S-300 missile defense system from Russia, a senior Israeli intelligence official told Reuters Wednesday, following an announcement from Moscow last month that it would deliver the advanced weapons system to Iran after lifting a ban on weapons sales to the Islamic Republic.
“If you speak about the S-300, they [Egypt] are buying this system,” the Israeli official said.
“I don’t know what kind of threat Egypt looks at when they decide to buy it, but we don’t see Egypt as the enemy,” the official said, adding that he hoped relations with Cairo would continue to improve.
The alleged arms deal was not officially confirmed by Egypt or by Russia, but an official in Cairo nevertheless stated that Israel had nothing to fear in light of the reports.
“If we are getting such a thing, it’s because we’re looking east, not north,” the official told Reuters, apparently referring to Iran.
The Russian news agency TASS said in a March report that Egypt would receive the Antey-2500 missile system, an S-300 variant, and put the value of the contract at more than a billion dollars.
Diplomats in Moscow and Washington are at odds over an announcement last month that Russia would lift a five-year ban on delivery of the S-300 air defense missile system to Iran, drawing a rapid rebuke from the United States and Israel.
The White House said the missile system would give the Islamic Republic’s military a strong deterrent against any air attack. The Kremlin argues that the S-300 is a purely defensive system that won’t jeopardize the security of Israel or any other countries in the Middle East.
Israel is concerned that Iranian deployment of the S-300s could complicate any last-resort strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, should the IDF decide to take such action.
It has also warned that the systems could reach Syria and Hezbollah, diluting Israel’s regional air supremacy.
Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.