UAE secretly spending billions to buy Israeli spy planes
For a number of weeks, spy planes have been taking off from al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi, flying for hours at a time in above the Gulf.
An investigation by Israeli media outlet Haaretz has revealed the UAE acquired these planes through Israel, for the purpose of spying on Iran.
The investigation revealed the UAE has been working with Israeli businessman Matanya Kochavi, known as Mati, to process the three billion shekels ($846 million) worth of deals.
The revelation stems from the notorious 2017 “Paradise Papers” leak by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
The Paradise Papers documents reveal that the deal involved the exact amount of money Mati has been dealing with the UAE, with evidence of a large proportion of the sum being paid in cash by Emirati leaders.
Israel and the UAE do not have formal diplomatic relations, but the two have developed increasingly close ties over shared concerns about Iran.
Visits by senior Israeli officials to Gulf states are rare, but growing in frequency.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited Oman last year. Israel's minister of sport and culture also made the first official visit by an Israeli minister to the UAE.
Israel's military occupation of the Palestinian territories is still widely seen as an obstacle to publicly improving ties with Arab states.
While Israel has diplomatic relations with only two Arab countries - Egypt and Jordan - Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have long had unofficial relations with Israel.
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