Israel has agreed to sell an advanced air defense system to the UAE, two sources familiar with the matter said, in the first such known deal between them since they forged ties in 2020.
Israel and the US-allied UAE share an ultimate fear, that Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, an ambition Tehran denies.
Israel approved a UAE request in the middle of the summer and would supply the Gulf state with Rafael-made SPYDER mobile interceptors, two sources said, declining to provide further details due to the sensitive nature of the deal.
A third source said the UAE had acquired Israeli technology capable of combating drone attacks like those that struck Abu Dhabi earlier this year.
Israel’s defense ministry and SPYDER manufacturer Rafael declined to comment. The UAE’s foreign ministry did not comment.
It was not immediately clear how many interceptors, which are fitted to vehicles and can defend against short to long-range threats, would be supplied, or if any had so far been shipped.
Asked if Israel was providing the UAE with air defense systems, parliament Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Ram Ben-Barak told Israeli radio on Sept. 20 there was broad cooperation with the UAE, but declined further comment.
Rafael says SPYDER can defend large areas from threats such as drones, cruise missiles, attack aircraft, helicopters, and bombers, including from low altitude.
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 Israel stood by and with the UAE.
Most of the strikes were claimed by the Iran-aligned Houthi militia, who the UAE has been fighting in the war in Yemen as part of the Arab Coalition seeking to restore the ousted government.
Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE president, told reporters in July that the UAE would consider anything that protects the country from drones and missiles as long as it was defensive and not targeting a third country.
Gulf state Bahrain also established ties with Israel in 2020 and later the two signed a security agreement. Israel and the UAE this year signed a free trade deal; Israel’s first with an Arab state. Negotiations with Bahrain started this week.