A large cargo plane belonging to the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry has landed in Israel twice in recent weeks, apparently at the Uvda military airfield in the Negev. The flights, which took off from the Azerbaijani capital Baku, occurred about two weeks ago, in the midst of the latest round of fighting between the Azerbaijani and Armenian armies in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to a publicly-accessible online flight database, Haaretz reports.
Israel and Azerbaijan have a strategic alliance going back many years. According to foreign reports, Israel has become a key supplier of arms to Azerbaijan in recent years, selling nearly $5 billion worth of weapons over the past four years. Azerbaijan is also one of Israel’s chief oil suppliers.
The Ilyushin 76 cargo plane arrived in Israel on April 4 and again on April 6, according to an internet flight database. The plane, which flies under the call sign AZAF8 (Azerbaijani Air Force 8) came from the direction of Turkey, flew over Cyprus and entered Israeli airspace over Tel Aviv, according to the report.
The plane remained on the ground for two to three hours each time before taking off again for Baku. It is not clear whether the plane unloaded cargo or loaded it, Haaretz said.
The plane, which bears the registration number “K-781314” on the side, has been owned by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry since September 1, 2014.