Saturday, February 12, 2005

Slight Return to the Ivory Coast

Back in November, I blogged on a curious incident during the French intervention in the Ivory Coast. Recapping, when the French army there moved into Abidjan after the Ivorian air-raid on one of their outposts, they established an HQ and registration point for evacuees in the best hotel in town. There they discovered that someone else had also moved in - a group of Israeli "private contractors" operating a signals-intelligence and phone-tapping centre for the Ivorian president. The 46 men were "invited" to leave "for their own safety" and were shipped out of the country without further ado. When the French destroyed the Ivorian air force, they also seized a drone which apparently had been sold by an Israeli firm to the Coast.

This was obviously interesting and gave rise to a valuable comments thread here.

Today, Ha'aretz reports that the French government has requested that Israel provide details of all arms sales to the Ivory Coast. At the time, we recall, the French demanded and got an embargo on any further deliveries. Now it would appear they are attempting to draw consequences for those responsible. Ha'aretz's Yossi Melman correctly, I think, picks out the nub as being that the French believe they were partly responsible for the Ivorian airstrike that killed a dozen Frenchmen and triggered the rupture of the ceasefire. The Le Monde report I linked to at the time claims that the drone was used to recce French positions in Ivory Coast preparatory to air attack by the Sukhoi 25s. The Ha'aretz report suggests that the Frogfoots themselves may have been procured with the aid of Israeli arms dealers, too.

It also names names: one Moshe Rothschild is said to have provided aircraft, parts and ammunition from Eastern Europe, whilst Hezi Betzalel is accused of supplying surveillance equipment. Aeronautics Defence Systems are named as selling the drones. I wonder who hired the pilots (said to have been Belarussians)?

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