Is an Israeli air defense system shooting down Israeli drones in Libya?

The United Arab Emirates has reportedly supplied an Israeli air defense system to Libyan strongman Gen. Khalifa Haftar to counter Turkish drones supplied to his rival, as fighting to capture Tripoli intensifies. According to a report in The New Arab, the system was supplied to counter Turkish drones as fighting around the capital picked up steam in recent days in an attempt to defeat the Government of National Accord, led by Fayez Sarraj.


The report alleges that the defense system was produced by an Israeli defense company and transferred to Egypt where fighters loyal to the warlord were trained on it before it was moved to Libya. While it is unclear who had trained the Libyans, there have been multiple reports of Israelis training Haftar’s forces in street warfare, in territory under his control during August and September.

Though the UN Security Council has repeatedly renewed the arms embargo on Libya since 2011, both sides have received significant military aid by numerous countries. Haftar, who sits in Tobruk in eastern Libya, has been heavily backed by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, France and Russia since 2014.

Russia and the UAE have been supporting Haftar’s forces with various weapons systems, including a Pantsir air defense system, which was destroyed by the GNA in November, MiG-21 fighter aircraft and Mi-24/35P helicopter gunships, as well as armored vehicles.

The Tripoli-based GNA led by Sarraj is supported by Italy, Qatar and Turkey, which has sent troops as well as Turkish-backed Syrian rebels to fight in the war-torn country. While Israel and Libya have no relations, in December, Abd al-Hadi al-Hajj, foreign minister in Haftar’s interim government, told The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication, Maariv, that he hoped Libya could establish normal relations with Israel if the Palestinian problem would be resolved.

“We support the rights of the people, including all of the rights of the Palestinian people. But we support regional peace, oppose terrorism – and fight it in Libya as well,” he told the publication while in Paris.

Last week, a Harop loitering drone produced by Israel Aerospace Industries in Azerbaijan and exported to Turkey to be used by its military crashed near the town of Dirj. The Harop is a small drone that, according to the company’s website, is a combination of the “capabilities of a UAV and a lethal missile.”

In July, two Israeli-made Orbiter-3 tactical drones were also shot down in Libya by troops allied with Haftar. The two drones manufactured by Aeronautics in Azerbaijan, which were part of a three-unit donation by Turkey, were recovered by troops 40 km. southwest of Tripoli in the small town of al-‘Aziziya while the other was recovered in the Sidra district, home to the country’s largest oil depot. Aeronautics, which had its export license reinstated in February after a two-year suspension, denied knowing anything about the incident in Libya.