Amid questions over how a hostile unidentified drone managed to fly into Israeli air space last week, Israeli defense chiefs closed rank Tuesday, praising the country’s air defenses and countering claims that those who sent the craft exposed a loophole.

The entity that launched the drone failed to retrieve intelligence or harm the reputation of Israeli air defenses, said Amos Gilad, policy director of the Defense Ministry, on Tuesday, without mentioning which entity he was referring to.

Speaking to Israel Radio, Gilad reiterated the IDF’s account of the drone intrusion, saying that the craft was spotted from a long way away and, due to operational concerns, was shot down by the IDF over southern Israel when IAF officers were certain it was over an uninhabited zone.

Defense sources say the unarmed drone was sent to test Israeli responses and gather intelligence.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Air Force chief Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel visited Air Defense Command officers in a northern air base on Tuesday, in what appears to be another sign of support.

“You are serving in an important and responsible position, especially during these times of regional uncertainties and challenges that are not simple,” Barak told the officers.

Describing the officers as a select group of “men and women who are required to strive for excellence,” the defense minister told the officers that they are meeting expectations with success.

“In the name of the Israeli government and the civilians, I came here to thank you for your dedicated and responsible work,” Barak said.

The drone was likely launched by Hezbollah from Lebanon, with Iranian technological assistance.

Iran was quick to try and score propaganda points from the incident. An Iranian military official was quoted on Monday by Iranian media as saying the incursion into Israeli airspace exposed the weakness of air defenses.

The IDF said the unmanned aerial vehicle was kept under observation while it flew over the Mediterranean Sea and banked eastward over Gaza and into Israel. F-16 fighter jets that were monitoring the drone shot it down south of Mount Hebron.

On Monday, the IDF confirmed reports that it deployed a Patriot surface-to-air missile battery on Mount Carmel, near Haifa.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office said the deployment “is not an unusual occurrence.”

The Patriot system can intercept medium-range ballistic missiles and planes and is also believed to be capable of shooting down drones. It can intercept threats between the ranges of 60 to 160 kilometers.

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