A picture released by Israeli Defence Forces press office shows a launch of a Patriot missile in southern Israel.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An Israel Air Force Patriot missile intercepted an unmanned aerial vehicle that approached the Golan Heights border on Saturday.
The remains of the UAV, which is believed to have been gathering intelligence for the Syrian regime, fell over the demilitarized zone on the northern Golan Heights around 11 a.m.
The interception comes amid heightened tensions on the northern border as the Syrian regime wages a major offensive in Quneitra province aimed at removing rebels from the area along the border.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Saturday that Israel views any violation of its sovereignty with “great severity,” and reiterated that it would respond to any provocation with force.
“We view the Syrian regime as responsible for all firing and violations of our sovereignty, and call on it to restrain all elements operating from its territory,” he said.
On Friday, the BBC news agency reported that Iran had established a military base at a Syrian army site south of the capital of Damascus
. According to the report, which is based on a western intelligence source, the Iranian base is some 50 kilometers north of Israel’s Golan Heights and has several buildings which likely house soldiers and military vehicles.
While the BBC stated that it could not independently verify the purpose of the base and presence of Iranian troops, Israel has warned of the growing entrenchment of Iran in Syria.
Liberman on Saturday reiterated the Jewish State’s red lines, stating that Israel “will not allow the establishment of the Shi'ite axis in Syria as a forward-operating base.”
On September 19, Israel used the Patriot system
to intercept an Iranian-built, Hezbollah-operated UAV that was close to the “Bravo line” on the east side of the buffer zone, which is not to be crossed by Syrian forces.
While the drone did not at any point cross into Israeli territory, “the IDF will not allow any infiltration or attempt to infiltrate by any Iranian elements, be it Hezbollah or Shi’a militia group, of the Golan Heights. We will respond to every action very clearly and we will act to prevent any future attempt,” IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said at the time.
On April 27, another UAV, which had flown into Israel from Syria hours after Israel allegedly struck a Hezbollah arms depot near Damascus International Airport, was intercepted by the system.
The system was also used in July 2016 when two Patriot missiles were fired at a drone that crossed into Israeli airspace from Syria. Both missed their target and the unmanned aircraft returned to Syria.
In August 2014, a Patriot missile shot down a drone that entered Israeli airspace from the Quneitra region.
Brig.-Gen. Tzvika Haimovitch, commander of the Aerial Defense Division, told The Jerusalem Post
this past August that UAVs are a big challenge due to their small size, great speed and low flying altitude. Nevertheless, Israel’s aerial defense systems, he said, “are flexible enough” to counter any threat, including UAVs.”
In mid-August Israel carried out a test of the Patriot system focusing on the threats posed by UAVs and firing multiple interceptor missiles toward aerial targets over central Israel.
With the Iron Dome, the Arrow and David’s Sling, Israel’s aerial defense system provide a comprehensive protective umbrella that is able to counter the growing missile threats from short-range rockets to longer-range ballistic missiles fired at ranges from 40 km. and 300 km.