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Armenia withdraws ambassador from Israel over Azerbaijan arms deal

Armenia said on Thursday it had recalled its ambassador to Israel for consultations over Israeli arms sales to Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan has acknowledged using Israeli-made weapons in its fighting with ethnic Armenian forces around Nagorno-Karabakh, where heavy clashes this week have drawn international calls for an immediate ceasefire.

Protesting against the Israeli weapons exports, Armenian foreign ministry spokeswoman Anna Naghdalyan said “Israel’s workstyle is unacceptable. The ministry has to call back its ambassador in Israel.”

Asked for details on weapons sales to Azerbaijan, an Israeli defense ministry spokeswoman declined comment.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a leading conflict and armaments think-tank, Israel provided Azerbaijan with some $825 million in weapons between 2006 and 2019.

Those exports included drones, loitering munitions, anti-tank missiles, and a surface-to-air missile system, information from SIPRI’s Arms Transfers Database showed.

Separately, in a video interview with Israel’s Walla news website on Wednesday, Azeri presidential aide Hikmat Hajayev said Azerbaijan was using “some” Israeli-made drones in fighting around Nagorno-Karabakh, without specifying how many.

“(We) have one of the strongest (drone) fleets in the region. And among them we have Israeli ones, we have other drones as well, but Israeli drones especially, including reconnaissance and attack drones, and kamikaze ‘Harop’ drones, (which) have proved itself very effective,” Hajayev said.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it regretted Armenia’s decision to recall its ambassador for consultations. “Israel attaches importance to our relations with Armenia and in this context sees the Armenian Embassy in Israel as an important tool for promoting them for the benefit of both peoples,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Header: IAI Harop UAV at Paris Air Show 2013

Source: REUTERS via JPost – Tovah Lazaroff

Notes:

The IAI Harop (or IAI Harpy 2) is a loitering munition developed by the MBT division of Israel Aerospace Industries. It is an anti-radiation drone that can autonomously home in on radio emissions. Rather than holding a separate high-explosive warhead, the drone itself is the main munition. This SEAD-optimised loitering munition is designed to loiter the battlefield and attack targets by self-destructing into them. The drone can either operate fully autonomously, using its anti-radar homing system, or it can take a human-in-the-loop mode. If a target is not engaged, the drone will return and land itself back at base.

It has been designed to minimize its radar-signature through stealth (low-observability). This anti-radiation drone is designed to target enemy air-defense systems in a first line of attack, as the small drone (with its small radar cross-section) can evade SAMs and radar detection systems which are designed to target much larger aircraft or to intercept fixed-trajectory missiles.

IAI Harop – side view. The IAI Harop has a loiter (flying) time of 6 hours and a range of 1000 km both ways. It is a larger version of the IAI Harpy and is launched from ground or sea-based canisters, but can be adapted for air-launch.

It was first used in combat by Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in April 2016. IAI Harop drones operated by Azerbaijan were used to destroy buses of Armenian soldiers being transported to the frontline. The loitering drones were also reportedly used to destroy an Armenian command post. The Israeli Defense Forces Harop was also credited for destroying a Syrian Air Defence SA-22 Pantsir on 10th May 2018. It was also used by the Azerbaijan Air Force in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.