//Israel supplying armoured vehicles to US forces in Iraq

Israel supplying armoured vehicles to US forces in Iraq


Occupied Jerusalem: An Israeli corporation has won a contract to supply the United States Marine Corps with state-of-the-art armoured vehicles for use in Iraq, the latest in a long line of Israeli defence sales.

Amit Tzimer, spokesman for Israel's state-owned weapons maker Rafael, said that in partnership with US manufacturer PVI, Rafael has signed up to deliver 60 of its new Golan vehicles at a total price of $37 million (Dh135.79 million).

Delivery will be made in the United States in May to the Marines, he said.

Rafael's sales catalog describes the Golan as a multipurpose vehicle, capable of withstanding armour-piercing machine-gun rounds, rocket fire and bomb blasts. It can carry up to 10 troops up to 600 km on a tank of gas and can be outfitted as a fighting vehicle, mobile command post or ambulance.

Tzimer said that the initial deal was part of the first phase of a US programme to procure a total of 40,000 armoured vehicles, and Rafael hoped for more orders in the future.

Sensitive issue

He added that the firm previously supplied armour for the Bradley fighting vehicle. Tel Aviv-based defence analyst Zeev Schiff said it was only one of several Israeli companies that had long been providing and maintaining equipment for American forces in Iraq.

"Israel prefers to keep a low profile, but it's been doing that for years, not just for the [US] Army but for the Navy, too," he said.

The Israeli Defence Ministry declined to comment on the sales of Israeli equipment destined for use in Iraq. The US Defence Department did not respond to requests for a comment.

Robin Hughes, a Mideast military analyst at London-based Jane's Defence Information Group, said the issue of Israeli equipment in service in Iraq was a sensitive one, and both suppliers and customers generally preferred to avoid publicity .

"There are systems that are deployed, and I wouldn't just say US vehicles, maybe other coalition vehicles. I think that if you were to look carefully, you might spot other Israeli stuff," he said, without elaborating.

Israeli media have reported that Israeli businessman are active within Iraq itself, and last month the Israeli National Security Council issued a cryptic travel warning, citing the danger to Israelis travelling there and reminding them that such visits are a criminal offence under Israeli law.

Israeli citizens are forbidden by law to visit Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia or Yemen, all of which are technically at war with the Jewish state. Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab states to have signed peace treaties with Israel.