Israel denies selling 'Iron Dome' missile defence system to Saudi Arabia
Israeli officials denied reports on Thursday that Saudi Arabia has purchased the "Iron Dome" missile defence system from the country as part of warming ties between Riyadh and Tel Aviv, according to Haaretz.
Earlier on Thursday, London-based Al-Khaleej Online reported that, according to diplomatic sources, Israel had refused to sell the system out of concerns for its security, but was convinced after heavy pressure from the US.
Saudi officials have not commented on the story.
According to the Al-Khaleej report, the deal is part of a broader Saudi effort to develop closer ties with Israel that move beyond politics and sharing Iran as a common enemy.
The relationship with Israel, the sources said, would involve exchanging military expertise, purchasing advanced weaponry and making deals public.
Saudi officials had three secret meetings in Washington to finalise the deal, the diplomatic sources said.
Riyadh will pay tens of millions of dollars and will sign a pledge through the US mediator to ensure that Iron Dome will not pose any danger to Israel's security and its allies in the Middle East, Al-Khaleej reported.
The system will reportedly be shipped to Saudi Arabia in December and will be deployed on the kingdom's southern borders with Yemen to intercept missiles launched by Houthi rebels.
Riyadh will also test the efficiency of the missile defence system in upcoming months after reports that it failed to intercept some rockets launched from Gaza Strip in the 2014 war.
If successful, the diplomatic sources said, the deal would pave the way for the Saudis to buy more advanced weaponry from Israel.
The Houthis have in recent months ramped up missile attacks against Saudi Arabia, which Riyadh says it mostly intercepts.
Last week, they targeted a Saudi National Guard camp in the border city of Najran.
The attack brings the tally to more than 185 rebel missiles launched since 2015, according to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition.