Israeli Defense Company Accused of Drone Attack on Artsakh Targets
BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
Israel’s defense ministry has temporarily suspended the marketing and export license of an Israeli weapons manufacturer, which is accused of staging drone attacks on Artsakh targets at the urging of Azerbaijan.
The Israeli Bizportal news agency reported Tuesday that the defense ministry’s Defense Export Control Department, which is investigating the Artsakh attack allegations, has suspended the marketing and export license of Aeronautics Defense System, the manufacturer of the Orbiter 1K drone system, to a “significant customer of the company in a foreign country.”
Earlier this month, the Israeli Defense Ministry said it is investigating allegations that two employees of Aernautics carried out live demonstration of the Orbiter 1K suicide drone system, which it sold to Azerbaijan, on Artsakh targets.
The investigation by the Israeli defense ministry body was first reported on August 13 by the local Maariv daily newspaper, which said that two Israeli drone operators refused to hit the Artsakh target, and after firmly refusing and being threatened by Azerbaijanis, senior representatives of the company armed and operated the drone, which is said to have missed its target without causing damage.
The Artsakh Army said that Azerbaijan used a suicide drone to attack its positions in northeastern Artsakh as recently as July 7. According to Colonel Armen Gyozalian of the Artsakh Army, two soldiers were injured during that attack, but no hardware was damaged.
Bizportal, using documents provided by the company in its earnings report, said that neither the export-control department nor Aeronautics named the country at the center of the suspension, only saying that it is a $20 million customer. Bizportal, however, references the Israeli media reports from two weeks ago regarding the investigation into the company for allegedly having its employees live-test the drones at Azerbaijan’s request.
Aeronautics Defense Systems says that it is the exclusive provider of the drone system to the “customer,” which owns a factory to manufacture drone parts and support the existing system. Azerbaijan has built such a plant to manufacture parts based on company specifications.
“There is interdependence between the company and the customer in such a way that its professional abilities are largely dependent on the company,” Aeronautics reported, according to Bizportal, adding that Aeronautics explained that “there are close economic ties between the government of Israel and the client government.”
Official Baku has boasted it reported purchase of $5 billion in arms from Israel, which were used on Artsakh targets during the April 2016 war, when a Harop aircraft, manufactured by the Israel Aerospace Industries, hit a bus and killed seven Armenians on board.
When reports surfaced about the Israeli defense ministry investigation into Aeronautics, Armenia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tigran Balayan told Asbarez that Yerevan closely follows “all developments that could affect legitimate security concerns of Artsakh, and therefore such kind of reports and allegations are a matter of concern. If confirmed, it should be followed by a clear reaction on the part of the international community. “
He added that Armenia’s official position regarding sale of any weapons to Azerbaijan “has been clearly articulated on numerous occasions and that stance has not changed, especially in light of the fact that those weapons are used not only against military targets, but against the civilian population as well.”
Aeronautics Defense Systems has denied the allegations, but it seems Israel’s defense ministry’s investigative body saw cause for the suspension of the company’s import license because if the allegations are found to be true it would make Israel an active party to the Karabakh conflict and would significantly change the dynamics of the situation both on the ground and on the international arena.
Yet since reports of the possibility of Israeli defense contractors being forced by Azerbaijan to perform live tests of suicide drones on Artsakh targets it did not seem to phase the international mediators who are tasked to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the Karabakh conflict.
On the contrary, the former interim US Co-Chair of the OSCE Minks Group, Richard Hoagland, in a swan song press conference, opted to ignore the realities on the ground and proposed a tired set of principles, which are more favorable to Azerbaijan–the country whose actions are now being investigated by the Israeli defense ministry.
The first thing on the incoming US Co-Chair Andrew Schofer’s agenda must be to address Israel’s involvement in the conflict. Israel’s military industrial complex has already profited off the blood of Artsakh soldiers. It must stop.