As Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Expands, Israel-Azerbaijan Arms Trade Thrives

A proliferation of flights between the two countries is linked to the renewal of the fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region

By Yossi Melman

Ben­­-Gurion Airport is quiet with civilian flights almost at a standstill. However, cargo flights on the Azerbaijan route have been very busy over the last two weeks. The high number of flights is a direct result of the renewal of fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. No fewer than four Ilyushin­­-76 planes, operated by the Azeri cargo airline Silk Way, which serves the Azeri defense ministry, have touched down and taken off from the Uvda air base in southern Israel – two, before the outbreak of fighting, and two, afterwards. According to flight regulations, that is the only airport from which planes loaded with explosive material are allowed to take off.

The monitoring of takeoffs and landings and the movement of planes across the Middle East and outside the region is done by professionals and amateurs alike. One of these is my colleague Avi Scharf, the editor-in-chief of the English edition of Haaretz. The four Azeri planes flew directly from Baku to Uvda and back, their flight path documented on various open websites that monitor air traffic. Some of these planes also flew from Baku to Ankara and Istanbul and back over the last two weeks.


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