The official statement by the IDF is laconic:
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was identified penetrating Israeli airspace this morning, and was intercepted by the IAF at approximately 10:00 AM. IDF soldiers are currently searching the area where the drone was downed, in open areas in the northern Negev, to locate and identify the drone.
That’s the whole report.
News agencies add additional minor details but the large questions remain unanswered for the moment. China’s Xinhua news service says the unidentified drone flew over settlements and military bases in southern Israel briefly before being brought down by IDF fire over an open unpopulated area. It was spotted entering Israel’s airspace from the Mediterranean sea heading from the west to the east. But there is no word on where the UAV originated.
The Daily Mail‘s website, published in the UK says this is not the first incident in which Israel has shot down drones entering its airspace:
The Iran-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah has launched several such aircraft into Israel over the past few years. In the 2006 war, Hezbollah launched an Iranian-made drone capable of carrying explosives into Israel that was shot down. Another one launched two years earlier crashed in the Mediterranean.
The Mail also quotes the IDF’s military spokesperson, Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, saying no one was injured in the process of bringing down this morning’s drone, and that Israeli ground systems alerted the air force to its presence, as a result of which IDF jets were given the order to scramble and intercept it. The Israeli air force “was in control throughout… We had monitoring contact from the ground and from the air.” She said the drone flew over the Gaza Strip but did not originate there and declined to give more details. But Israel media reports have suggested this was an intelligence gathering drone and was not carrying explosives.
Times of Israel publishes video footage of the IDF bringing down the drone, and says the army is considering “the possibility that it originated in Lebanon. Hezbollah has flown drones into Israeli airspace a few times in the past, though not for several years“.
Back in April 2012, the daily Yediot Aharonot reported that the terrorists of Lebanon’s Hezbollah have
been allocating increased resources towards bolstering its drone unit… The Shiite terror groups reportedly plans to use its unmanned aerial vehicle to attack Israel in case it mounts a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Hezbollah is equipped with Ababil (“Swallow”) drones, which are manufactured and provided by Iran.The Ababil has several models, including one that can carry a warhead packed with several dozens of kilograms of explosives. Defense establishment officials expressed concern that Hezbollah would be able to send multiple drones into Israel’s airspace and have them crash into targets in the country’s north. “Hezbollah is making a specific effort to acquire such (weapons) as part of its offensive lineup against Israel,” a security source told Yedioth Ahronoth.
The Lebanon Daily Star reported that a Hezbollah drone crash-landed inside Lebanon in July. As far back as 2006, the IDF brought one of those Ababil drones down in the sea off the northern Israeli city of Akko [report].
A website called Arkenstone [“a comprehensive, open source, English-language database on the Iranian armed forces”] gives more background about Iranian drones. Keep in mind we still don’t know the source of today’s drone. And for the moment (it’s 7:45 pm Saturday night here in Jerusalem) there are no reports about this that we can see in the online Iranian media.
Finally, a reminder from the BBC World Service that
Iran has unveiled what it says is a new “indigenous” long-range unmanned drone capable of flying over most of the Middle East, state media report. The Shahed (Witness) 129 had a range of 2,000km (1,240 miles) and could be equipped with bombs and missiles, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said. It is reportedly capable of carrying out reconnaissance and combat missions.
There are certain to be more details in the coming hours.
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