The Ovda Israeli Air Force base near Eilat welcomed an Azerbaijani cargo plane for a two-hour stay last Thursday. Subsequently, the Ilyushin-76 flew south over Israel, turned north over Turkey, and then flew eastwards to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. This was the usual route of the airlift returning to its home field.

Haaretz News conducted an inquiry using publicly available aviation data showing 92 cargo flights from Azerbaijani Silk Way Airlines landing at the Ovda airbase in Israel in the last seven years. This airfield is the only one in the country that allows explosives to be transported in or out.

For the past 20 years, Israel has partnered strategically with Azerbaijan, a country populated with a majority of Shia Muslims. Israel spends substantial sums of money on weapons for Azerbaijan, and in return, Azerbaijan provides Israel with oil and access to Iran, as per sources.

Foreign media reports have indicated that Azerbaijan has granted Mossad permission to open a forward branch for monitoring Iran, located south of Azerbaijan. Furthermore, an airstrip has been constructed to help Israel if it chooses to attack Iranian nuclear sites. Two years ago, it was reported that Mossad operatives who stole the Iranian nuclear archive smuggled it to Israel with the help of Azerbaijan. Official records from Azerbaijan have confirmed that Israel has provided the country with various sophisticated weapons systems, including ballistic missiles, air defense and electronic warfare systems, kamikaze drones, and more.

Asia’s Silk Way airline is documented as a subcontractor for defense ministries globally. Three flights are flown in Boeing 747 cargo freighters between Baku and Ben-Gurion International Airport every week. Last year, the company was the third most significant foreign cargo transporter in volume at Ben-Gurion.

For the first time, newly released figures demonstrate that since 2016, Silk Way’s IL-76 planes have touched down at the Ovda airport 92 times or more, a place atypical for passenger aircraft. Moreover, the company is one of the few airlines that land at Ovda; just a handful of airlines from Eastern Europe transporting explosives have visited this landing strip over the years. Silk Way was the focus of a 2018 investigation by the Czech media, claiming that a forbidden sale of arms to Azerbaijan had occurred via Israel despite the arms embargo.

Aviation industry sources reported that Israeli aviation law prohibits the regular transportation of explosives from Ben-Gurion Airport due to its location in the center of a heavily populated area. The only airport from which it is permissible to export and import explosives is the Israel Air Force base in Ovda. In October 2013, the head of the Israel Civil Aviation Authority, Giora Romm, signed a waiver permitting Silk Way planes to fly shipments of explosives – “labeled as dangerous materials banned to fly” – from Ovda to a military airfield near Baku. This waiver, displayed then on the Civil Aviation Authority’s website, demands rigorous safety regulations and contains a list of the Azerbaijani aircraft allowed to transport explosives from Ovda to Azerbaijan.