A Patriot missile shot down a Syrian drone which infiltrated into northern Israel on Wednesday with debris from the UAV falling in the Sea of Galilee.
According to IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis, the unarmed reconnaissance drone flew 10 km. inside Israel before being intercepted.
“The aerial defense systems identified the threat and tracked it,” read a statement from the military spokesman. “The IDF will not allow any violation of Israeli airspace, and will act against any attempt to hurt its civilians.”
Manelis stated that while it is unclear if the drone intentionally entered Israel, it was already identified and tracked before it flew into the country’s buffer zone. Two attack helicopters and four fighter jets were scrambled as options to intercept the UAV. But due to operational considerations, it was intercepted by a Patriot missile.
With a large-scale Syrian offensive targeting rebels just over the border, the IDF checked with Russia and Jordan before shooting down the drone.
The IDF identified the officer who commanded the interception of the Syrian drone as Capt. Or Na’aman, commander of the Patriot Battery of the 138th Battalion.
“We acted professionally, without hesitation and with total success. We were in continuous contact with the target the entire time. I’m very proud of the battery,” she said.
Commander of the Aerial Defense Division Brig.-Gen. Tzvika Haimovitch said that an investigation into the event showed that the battery commanders and fighters acted professionally, which led to the successful interception.
“The air defense division of the Israel Air Force is deployed throughout the borders of the country, and this event joins events in recent weeks in which Iron Dome fighters intercepted high-trajectory threats in southern Israel. At this time we are required to maintain vigilance and readiness for every scenario, in every arena,” he said.
A rocket-alert siren was heard around 3:30 p.m. in several Golan Heights and Jordan Valley communities including Masada, Ein Gev, Shaar HaGolan, Haspin, Givat Yoav, Ramat Magshimim, Kfar Haruv, Mevo Hama and Meitar.
During the incident, Israel Police called on all boats in the Sea of Galilee to head to shore. According to Jordan Valley Regional Council head Idan Greenbaum, debris from the intercepted UAV fell into the eastern part of the lake.
Israel has previously deployed Patriot missile batteries to the north of the country to intercept drones infiltrating into Israeli airspace from Syria. Two weeks ago, a Patriot missile was fired toward a drone approaching Israel’s Golan Heights from Syria. According to the IDF, the UAV was not hit and withdrew from the border area following the missile launch.
Tensions in northern Israel have risen in recent days as Syrian government forces, backed by Hezbollah, Iranian-affiliated Shi’ite militias and Russian air power, have fought to retake the Syrian Golan Heights from rebel groups
In recent days, fighters in Deraa surrendered a swathe of territory near the Jordanian border, allowing regime troops to turn their focus to the Quneitra province and areas closer to the Israeli-held section of the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in 1967.
As the offensive draws closer to Israel’s Golan Heights, Jerusalem has called for the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement between Israel and Syria to be upheld, and the demilitarized buffer zone along the border to be respected.
While Israel has made it clear that it does not intend to interfere in the Syrian civil war, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned Tuesday that any Syrian soldier in the buffer zone would be shot.
“I made it clear here, both to the commanders and to the representatives of the UNDOF [UN Disengagement Observer Force], that any Syrian entering into the buffer zone, every Syrian soldier in the buffer zone, would endanger his soul,” Liberman said.
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, called on the Security Council to condemn the Syrian UAV infiltration, noting that the incident comes during a time of heightened tensions on Israel’s border with Syria.
“We have repeatedly warned the Security Council of the destabilizing activities taking place in Syria and the threats they pose to Israel and the Middle East,” Danon said. “Israel holds the Syrian government accountable for every attack originating from its territory. We will not tolerate breaches of the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement, and will continue to defend our citizens and our territory from any threat or violation of our sovereignty. I urge the Security Council to condemn this dangerous act that not only threatens Israel, but the stability of the entire region.”