Azeri cargo flights to Israeli base - used for arms exports - spike in recent weeks, as tensions with Armenia run high
Azerbaijan’s armed forces conducted large scale air defense drills, the Azeri Ministry of Defense announced on Wednesday, including live-firing of the Israeli made Barak-8 ER air defense system.
According to the statement, the Barak-8 detected and destroyed a ballistic missile “launched by an imaginary enemy.” Israel has had a strategic alliance with Azerbaijan for the past two decades, selling the large Shi’ite-majority country weapons worth billions of dollars – and in return, Azerbaijan, per sources, supplies Israel with oil and access to Iran.
According to official reports from Azerbaijan, over the years, Israel has sold it the most advanced weapons systems, including ballistic missiles, air defense and electronic warfare systems, kamikaze drones and more.
Foreign media reports indicate Azerbaijan has allowed the Mossad to set up a forward branch to monitor what is happening in Iran, Azerbaijan’s neighbor to the south, and has even prepared an airfield intended to aid Israel in the case it decides to attack Iranian nuclear sites. Reports from two years ago stated that the Mossad agents who stole the Iranian nuclear archive smuggled it to Israel via Azerbaijan.
Israel and Azerbaijan took their relationship up a level in 2011 with a huge $1.6 billion deal that included a battery of Barak missiles for intercepting aircraft and missiles, as well as Searcher and Heron drones from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). It was reported that near the end of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War in 2020, a Barak battery shot down an Iskander ballistic missile launched by Armenia.
An investigation by Haaretz in March revealed that over the past seven years, 92 cargo flights flown by Azerbaijani Silk Way Airlines have landed at the Ovda airbase, the only airfield in Israel through which explosives may be flown into and out of the country. The investigation found the number of flights spiked during periods of fighting against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Since March, there have been 11 more Azeri flights, including 5 in the past two weeks, totaling 103 flights in 7 years. According to Reuters, tensions are running high again between Azerbaijan and Armenia, with both sides accusing each other of a military build up near their shared border and around Karabakh.
(c) 2023, Haaretz