1280px-MQ-9_Reaper_in_flight_(2007)

An MQ-9 Reaper, a hunter-killer surveillance UAV

Saudi Arabia has being quietly buying Israeli drones despite the two states having no formal political or diplomatic links, according to a Saudi analyst known for revealing details about the kingdom’s royal family.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), of which Israel is a world leader, are often used for surveillance and offensive military operations in warzones, and are being supplied to Saudi Arabia via South Africa, according to the analyst known as ‘Mujtahidd.’

“Saudi Arabia buys Israeli drones through South Africa,” the opposition activist wrote on Twitter. “These drones later arrive from South Africa, dismantled, to Saudi Arabia, where they are assembled.”

He added: “Notwithstanding the political controversies between Israel and South Africa, the military cooperation between both states strongly continues.”

His claims, made on Wednesday, came in response to an announcement from the Saudi Defence Ministry that it would construct a UAV manufacturing plant with help from South Africa.

“The report aims to hide the fact that Saudi Arabia intends to purchase drones from Israel via South Africa,” he wrote.

His comments are likely to heap pressure on Saudi officials, but corroborate Israeli analysts’ comments about a “silent alliance” between Jerusalem and Sunni Muslim states, of which Saudi Arabia is perhaps the most influential.

For decades, Saudi Arabia held back from intervening in regional conflicts, but in recent years it has sent troops into Bahrain and Yemen, as it has sought to restrain Iranian influence in the affairs of its neighbours.