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Morocco bought Israel's suicide drones in $22m arms deal: Report

The Harop unmanned drones carry 20kg of explosive and can fly for seven hours for up to 1,000 kilometres in distance
Israel's unmanned combat aerial vehicle Harop is presented at the International Paris Airshow at Le Bourget on 17 June 2015 (AFP)

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has received $22m this year in an arms deal with Morocco to supply "kamikaze" drones, Haaretz reported on Tuesday.

The deal reportedly involves the purchase by Morocco of armed drones from Israel's state-owned aerospace manufacturer, according to Moroccan sources who spoke with Defense News.

The Africa Intelligence website has also reported that the agreement includes the manufacturing of the Harop kamikaze drone in Morocco. IAI has declined to comment to Haaretz whether that is true or not.

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Harop is a 2.5-metre long unmanned "suicide" drone with a three-metre wingspan. It has the capacity to fly for seven hours and up to 1,000 kilometres, while carrying 20kg of explosives. 

On a visit to Morocco last week, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz signed a security cooperation agreement with his Moroccan counterpart Abdellatif Loudiyi, which included a commitment to signing and promoting weapons deals.

The military collaboration comes a year after the two countries announced the establishment of diplomatic relations.

According to a financial report submitted by IAI to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, the company registered revenues of $12m in the third quarter and $10m in the second.

The deals are new, according to Haaretz, as there were no aircraft deals concluded between Israel and any African country in 2019 and 2020. 

Purchased from Israel, the Harop drone was used by Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict last year, when it was believed to be the first time it was used in an offensive action. It was reported at the time that the Harop drone gave Azerbaijan the strategic advantage in the conflict with Armenia.

Western Sahara

Morocco is entrenched in a territorial dispute over the Western Sahara region with the Polisario Front, which is seeking independence and self-determination with support from neighbouring Algeria.

Tensions between Morocco and Algeria have intensified in recent months, with Algeria severing diplomatic ties with Rabat in August. Three Algerian truck drivers were killed earlier this month in what Algeria has described as an "assassination" by the Moroccan military using "sophisticated weapons" in Western Sahara.

The US has acknowledged Morocco’s sovereignty over the region in the normalisation agreement between Israel and the North African kingdom. It is believed the new weapons deals can help Rabat solidify control over the disputed territory and put an end to the violent flare-ups with the Polisario.

In September, Morocco took delivery of Turkish-made Bayraktar combat drones, according to Far-Maroc, a private military news website.