Israel fired a Patriot anti-ballistic missile in the North on Thursday, reportedly intercepting a drone that entered Israel’s airspace from Syria.The interception comes hours after Israel allegedly struck a Hezbollah arms depot near Damascus International Airport, a move condemned by Russia, which called it a “gross violation of Syrian sovereignty.”Israel has in the past used the missile-defense system against suspicious aerial vehicles, most recently in July 2016, when two Patriot missiles were fired at a suspicious 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 successfully shot down a drone that entered Israeli airspace from the Quneitra region on the Syrian Golan Heights.In March, Syria warned that scud missiles would be fired toward Israeli targets if Israel carried out any further air strikes in the war-torn country. Beirut’s Ad-Diyar daily reported that Damascus had prepared four scuds out of their arsenal of 800, which can carry half a ton of explosives, and would launch them without any prior warning if Israel carried out a strike, “as Israel does not announce their raids against Syrian targets.”The report came following an Israeli strike on a weapons convoy bound for Hezbollah and the firing of a SA-5 missile toward Israeli jets, which was intercepted by an Arrow missile. Israel’s air defense systems include the Iron Dome, which is designed to shoot down shortrange rockets, the Arrow, which intercepts ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, and the newly operational David’s Sling missile defense system, which is designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets and cruise missiles fired at ranges between 40 km. and 300 km.David’s Sling is meant to replace the aging Patriot.Hezbollah’s secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah has warned that the terrorist group is able to hit “the entirety of occupied Palestine with missiles,” but according to a senior IDF officer in the Air Defense Command, Israel is now able to protect more territory from enemy rockets or missiles with the addition of David’s Sling.The border with Syria has been tense since the civil war erupted in 2011, and while Israel is suspected of carrying out strikes against Hezbollah weapons convoys in Syrian territory, it rarely publicly admits to them. With various heavily armed radical groups battling President Bashar Assad, Syria is Israel’s most unpredictable and unstable neighbor and poses one of the greatest risks for a sudden escalation.
Social media video of explosions near Syria"s Damascus airport, April 27, 2017 (REUTERS)