EXCLUSIVE Israel to sell air defense system to UAE, sources say

The flags of the United Arab Emirates and Israel are flown during the Israel National Day ceremony at Expo 2020 Dubai, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, January 31, 2022. REUTERS/Christopher Pike/

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DUBAI/NEW YORK, Sept 22 (Reuters) – Israel has agreed to sell an advanced air defense system to the United Arab Emirates, two sources familiar with the matter said, in the first known deal between them since forging links in 2020.

The deal reinforces how, for some Arab states, resolving the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict has now been eclipsed by national priorities, such as security and the economy.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates allied with the United States share an ultimate fear that Iran will obtain a nuclear weapon, an ambition that Tehran denies.

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Israel approved a request from the United Arab Emirates in mid-summer to supply the Gulf state with SPYDER mobile interceptors made by Rafael, two sources said, declining to provide further details due to the sensitive nature of the attack. ‘OK.

A third source said the UAE had acquired Israeli technology capable of countering drone attacks like those that hit Abu Dhabi earlier this year.

Israel’s Defense Ministry and SPYDER manufacturer Rafael declined to comment. The UAE Foreign Ministry had no comment.

It was not immediately clear how many interceptors, which are mounted on vehicles and can defend against short- and long-range threats, would be provided, or if there had been any so far.

Asked whether Israel was supplying the UAE with air defense systems, the chairman of the parliamentary foreign affairs and defense committee, Ram Ben-Barak, told Israel Radio on September 20 that there was a broad cooperation with the UAE, but declined to comment further.

ATTACKS

The need to bolster the UAE’s air defense capabilities grew after a series of missile and drone strikes on the Gulf state in January and February. Most of the attacks were intercepted, but one strike killed three civilians in Abu Dhabi.

The strike rattled the rulers of the United Arab Emirates, who have long boasted of their security and stability in a tumultuous region, foreign diplomats said. A terminal under construction at Abu Dhabi airport was also hit, injuring civilian workers, sources briefed on the attacks said.

At least some missiles and drones flew low to evade detection by UAE-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot interceptors, the sources said.

According to Rafael, SPYDER can defend large areas against threats such as drones, cruise missiles, attack aircraft, helicopters and bombers, including at low altitudes.

President Isaac Herzog, visiting the UAE in January when an intercepted strike took place, said Israel supported the UAE’s security needs. And last week, Prime Minister Yair Lapid said he was horrified by the attacks and that Israel stood with the United Arab Emirates.

Most of the strikes were claimed by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, which the United Arab Emirates fought in the war in Yemen as part of the Saudi-led military coalition seeking to restore the ousted government.

The sources said the interceptor deal was reached in mid-summer, around the time the US and Israel were pushing Arab states to link their air defense systems to better defend against the Iranian drone and missile attacks.

The proposal has met with resistance from some Arab states with which Israel has no ties, Reuters reported in July, although an Israeli official said partner countries were synchronizing systems through remote electronic communication.

Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the president of the United Arab Emirates, told reporters in July that the United Arab Emirates would consider anything that protects the country from drones and missiles as long as it is defensive and does not target a third country.

The Gulf state Bahrain also established ties with Israel in 2020 and later the two signed a security agreement. Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed a free trade agreement this year; Israel’s first with an Arab state. Negotiations with Bahrain started this week.

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Reporting by Alexander Cornwell and John Irish; Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Alexander Smith

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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