(french.presstv.ir/) – Morocco has bought a large number of drones from the Israeli regime in recent years, enabling Rabat’s forces to carry out attacks deep inside Sahrawi territory where people now live under Israeli-sponsored surveillance and harassment, a report has just revealed.
Sidi Owgal, a senior military official in the Polisario who is currently head of presidential security, told The Intercept that the Israeli drones used in Western Sahara were carrying out surveillance as well as direct targeting.
Abwa Ali, a Polisario commander, had personally seen fragments of missiles bearing Hebrew letters.
Part of the Moroccan arsenal of Israeli drones could in fact be used as attack drones: the Heron TP and the Hermes 900 can be used for both surveillance and attacks, while the Harop can only be used for strikes.
“Harops are what we call ‘wandering munitions’; they’re expensive and they can only strike once because they explode on impact,” said Borsari, “They would most likely be used against high-value targets. ”
Senior officials in Sahrawi territory say that the proliferation of Israeli drones in Morocco makes an already unequal war between Morocco and the Polisario, completely asymmetrical.
“The Saharawi people feel that every day they are becoming more like the people of Palestine,” said Mohamed Sidati, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic.
Owgal and Sidati said that Israeli advisers are on the ground on the Moroccan side of the Sand Wall to advise the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces on their use of drone technology. “They are there … not far from the Sand Wall,” Sidati said.
Federico Borsari, a researcher specialising in unmanned technologies at the Center for European Policy, believes that “it is not only possible but very likely that Israel has sent advisers on the ground in Morocco to train the Royal Armed Forces in the use of drones”.
Moroccan media have also reported that Rabat is planning to manufacture “kamikaze” drones in partnership with Tel Aviv, and that Israeli company Elbit Systems recently announced the opening of two factories in Morocco to produce “defence systems”.
On Wednesday 7 June, the Moroccan Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita, held talks in Rabat with the Israeli Security Adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi.
In December 2020, a month after the end of the ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario, then-President Donald Trump announced US support for Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara. This recognition contradicted the position of the United Nations, which considers Western Sahara to be a “non-self-governing territory”, a euphemism for a colony.
In exchange for US support for Western Sahara, Morocco signed up to the so-called Abraham Accords, a series of agreements negotiated by Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, which led some Arab states to normalise their relations with Israel.
Since then, Rabat has gone from secret ties with Tel Aviv to becoming its open ally while Israel has sold at least 150 drones to Morocco.
Morocco annexed the vast region of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in the 1970s and has since been in conflict with the Algerian-backed Polisario Front, a movement that seeks to establish an independent state in the territory and end the Moroccan presence there.
Morocco currently controls 80% of the region, including its phosphate deposits and fishing waters. It has built a wall some 2,700 km (1,700 miles) long across the disputed territory to keep Sahrawis out of the resource-rich region. (It is called the “wall of the sands”, “Moroccan wall”, “defence wall” or “security wall” in Morocco and “wall of shame” by its opponents.)
The indigenous population of the Western Sahara is firmly opposed to Moroccan control and has called for independence for the North African country and a referendum on self-determination, which has been promised to the region in UN resolutions, albeit without any tangible result.
The UN deployed the peacekeeping mission MINURSO in the region to monitor a 1991 ceasefire and organise a so-called referendum on the region’s status.
However, the world body’s envoys have failed to prepare the ground for a referendum on the future of Western Sahara.
While Morocco’s purchase of Israeli drones has been reported since 2014, their use in Western Sahara is less well documented.
A local journalist shared photos that had been circulating on social media showing an Israeli Heron drone at the airport in Dakhla, a town on the Moroccan side of Western Sahara; the photos date from late 2020 and early 2021. The details of the hangar in the photos match the images of Dakhla airport.
In addition, commercial satellite images show what strongly resembles a Heron drone outside the hangar in October 2021.
Israel first sold three Heron drones to Morocco as part of a one-off deal brokered by France six years before the two sides officially came together.
In November 2021, Algeria revealed that Morocco had used “sophisticated weapons” to hit three Algerian truck drivers as they apparently passed through the Polisario-controlled Western Sahara.
In 2022, two Mauritanian citizens were allegedly killed by Moroccan drone strikes. Sidati also alleged that there had been numerous civilian casualties. “The Moroccans have a scorched earth policy”, he said.
The UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara said in its last report, in October 2022, that it had not been able to independently confirm that there had been any casualties in a drone strike, although it did acknowledge finding traces of human remains at four sites other than where the two Mauritanians were killed.
The long-running conflict between the two sides has received renewed attention due to the growing frustration of the Sahrawi people, particularly after the US ignored UN efforts by backing Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over the entire disputed territory in 2020.
Morocco became the fourth Arab country – after the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Sudan – to sign a normalisation deal with Israel, which was brokered by former US President Donald Trump’s administration in the final days of his term. As part of the controversial agreement, Trump agreed to recognise Morocco’s authority over the Western Sahara.
However, his successor Joe Biden has failed to take the necessary action to make the recognition of Moroccan sovereignty effective on the ground.