Israel’s Patriot missile defence system yesterday intercepted an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that entered Israeli airspace from Syria.
The attempted infiltration reportedly came in response to the events of the previous night in Syria, where an explosion near Damascus International airport was alleged as an Israeli airstrike on a Hezbollah arms depot by the Syrian Army and Hezbollah.
According to unnamed security sources, there is no connection between the two incidents. The UAV has not yet been found and it is unclear who manufactured it and what its purpose was.
An IDF source said they “view the incident with severity.” The current Israeli assessment is that it the UAV was of Syrian origin and that it was on a collection mission and accidentally infiltrated Israel.
In an unusual announcement about the Damascus airstrike, Israel’s intelligence minister, Yisrael Katz, said in an interview to Army Radio: “I can confirm that the incident in Syria is completely in line with Israel’s policy of taking action to prevent the smuggling of advanced arms from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon by Iran.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who was in Moscow during the strike, had outlined Israel’s red lines, before the operation took place. He said the first is Iranian use of Syrian soil for arms shipments to Hezbollah, and the second is an objection to having Iran and Hezbollah mass forces on the Syrian-Israeli border in the Golan Heights.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad responded saying that reported Israeli attacks on Syria were proof that Israel supports what he termed the terrorists who are fighting against him.
During an interview with a Venezuelan television station Assad said that he has been conducting negotiations with Russia to acquire the most sophisticated missile intercept system of its kind in order to combat the attacks by Israel and the US.
Previous Syrian attempts to infiltrate Israel with UAVs have been well documented. In July 2016, two Patriot missiles were fired at a UAV that crossed into Israeli airspace from Syria. Both missed their target and the unmanned aircraft returned to Syria. In August 2014, a Patriot missile successfully shot down a UAV that entered Israeli airspace also from the Syrian Golan Heights.