Residents report trail of smoke in the sky after sirens sound in north, triggered by Patriot missile that intercepted the UAV; fragments fall into Sea of Galilee
The Israel Defense Forces shot down a Syrian drone that penetrated several miles into Israeli territory from Syria on Wednesday, sending fragments of the aircraft crashing to the earth south of the Sea of Galilee, the military said.
“Using a Patriot battery, the IDF intercepted an unmanned aerial vehicle that infiltrated from Syria into Israeli territory,” the military said in a statement.
The IDF said the Syrian drone was flown into Israel from Syria, after it also passed through Jordanian airspace.
The incident took place as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow to stress to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Israel will not tolerate an Iranian military presence in Syria.
The anti-aircraft Patriot missile that was fired at the drone set off rocket sirens in the southern Golan Heights and northern Jordan Valley regions, the army said. Residents of northern Israel reported seeing a trail of smoke in the sky as well as hearing explosions.
The drone reportedly managed to fly some 10 kilometers (three miles) into Israel before it was shot down over the Sea of Galilee. This likely indicates that the UAV was deliberately flown into Israel, though the army said it was still investigating if the drone had accidentally entered Israeli airspace as it was conducting a mission near the border.
The IDF later released footage of the anti-aircraft Patriot missile shooting down the drone. In the video, the UAV can be seen flying through the sky before the interceptor missile comes streaking across the screen and smashes into it, creating a large fireball.
It was not immediately clear how the drone managed to penetrate so deeply into Israel before it was intercepted.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
The Israel Police ordered all boats on the Sea of Galilee to dock due to “operational activity” after fragments from the drone fell into the water.
“The IDF will not allow a violation of the State of Israel’s aerial sovereignty and will take action against any attempt to harm its citizens,” the army said.
The incident came just over two weeks after the IDF said it launched a Patriot interceptor missile at another drone that was heading toward Israeli airspace from Syria, prompting the incoming unmanned aerial vehicle to beat a retreat. Then too the IDF did not identify the operator of the drone.
On Monday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman toured the Golan Heights, where he threatened Syria with a “strong response” should it violate a delicate decades-old ceasefire agreement in the region. Liberman’s warning came hours after Israeli planes reportedly bombed an air base in central Syria used by Iranian militia fighters in the latest confrontation between the countries.
Last year, the Israel Defense Forces used the Patriot missile defense system on at least three occasions in order to shoot down incoming drones from Syria.
In April 2017, a Syrian military drone was shot down by a Patriot missile. In September of that year, the American-made system also intercepted an unmanned aerial vehicle that was flown by the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group. And in November 2017, the military shot down another Syrian military drone that approached Israeli airspace.