THE UAE | According to two people with knowledge of the situation, Israel has agreed to sell the United Arab Emirates a sophisticated air defense system. This is the first known agreement of its kind between the two countries since their diplomatic relations were established in 2020.
The agreement highlights how, for certain Arab countries, national concerns like security and the economy have taken precedence over resolving the protracted Israeli-Palestinian problem.
The ultimate worry that Iran would develop a nuclear weapon, an objective Tehran rejects, is shared by Israel and the US ally UAE.
According to two sources, Israel granted the UAE’s request in the middle of the summer and would deliver the Gulf nation with SPYDER mobile interceptors built by Rafael. The sources declined to elaborate more owing to the sensitivity of the agreement.
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According to a third source, the UAE has purchased Israeli equipment that can thwart drone strikes similar to the one that hit Abu Dhabi earlier this year.
Rafael, the maker of the SPYDER rifle, and Israel’s military minister declined to comment. The foreign ministry of the UAE made no comments.
It wasn’t immediately clear how many interceptors would be sent or whether any had already been shipped. Interceptors are mounted to vehicles and can guard against short- to long-range threats.
In July, Haaretz published details on the Middle East Air Defense (MEAD) defense alliance, which Israeli leaders including Defense Minister Benny Gantz had been hyping up for weeks.
Israel has been a component of the United States Central Command’s zone since early 2021. CENTCOM, which has its forward base in Qatar, acts as a type of protective umbrella over the nations in its area of responsibility, which includes the Middle East and Central Asia.
For U.S. allies in the area, CENTCOM has been coordinating the response to air-defense threats throughout the last year. At this time, the cooperative effort depends on sensors and interception systems that have already been deployed by the United States and other nations in the region.
These include the ship-borne Aegis combat systems in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, as well as the X-band radar that the American Army has placed on Mount Keren in the Negev Desert. Air-defense missiles and fighter planes are alternatives for intercept.
When asked if Israel was giving the UAE air defense systems, Ram Ben-Barak, chairman of the foreign affairs and defense committee in parliament, said on September 20 that there was extensive cooperation with the UAE but he would not elaborate.
After a flurry of missile and drone strikes on the Gulf state in January and February, it became more important for the UAE to strengthen its air defense capabilities. Although most of the assaults were stopped, a strike in Abu Dhabi resulted in the deaths of three people.
According to international diplomats, the strike alarmed the UAE’s authorities, who have long bragged about their country’s security and stability in a volatile region. According to individuals informed on the assaults, an under-construction terminal at the airport of Abu Dhabi was also damaged, hurting civilian workers.
According to the sources, at least some drones and missiles flew at low altitude to avoid being detected by the UAE’s American-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot interceptors.
According to Rafael, SPYDER can protect a sizable region from threats like drones, cruise missiles, attack planes, helicopters, and bombers, even when they are approaching at a low altitude.
In January, when an intercepted strike occurred, President Isaac Herzog, who was in the UAE, stated that Israel backed the UAE’s security requirements. And last week, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid expressed his horror at the assaults and Israel’s support for the UAE.