An Israeli military drone was downed on Tuesday in the southern Gaza Strip, marking the third time in the past three days that Israel lost one of its drones in enemy territory.
On Sunday, a military spokesperson reported that an army unit operating near Gaza, the Palestinian coastal enclave controlled by Hamas, lost one of the drones it was flying as part of a mission.
Hamas, designated a terror group by Jerusalem as well as the United States and European Union, has been battling Israel ever since gaining control of Gaza in 2007, including several limited rounds of combat.
Then on Monday, another Israeli drone fell into enemy hands, when army forces lost the small unmanned aircraft vehicle over Lebanon.
Initially reported by Hizbullah, the Iran-backed Shi’ite organization that controls southern Lebanon, the capture of the advanced equipment was later confirmed by Israel.
An Israeli military spokesperson told The Media Line that the drone “fell in the course of military activity,” but did not specify whether its drop was caused by a technical malfunction or by enemy interception.
“There is no concern of sensitive information being leaked,” the spokesperson said.
Israel’s military is estimated to operate many dozens of drones of different sizes and with different features, costing anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.
The UAV’s ability to operate beneath radar detection level yet unnoticed by those on the ground makes it a unique and essential part of any military arsenal these days.
While this is not the first time Israel has lost a military drone midflight, the three successive events have raised concern over possible operational snags.
Hezbollah and Hamas don’t have the most advanced intercepting capabilities, defense experts told The Media Line Tuesday, but not being able to operate freely is something Israel must look into and fix as soon as possible.
“Once your drone is in the wrong hands, there is definitely useful information that can be gleaned from it,” Asaf Lebovitz, vice president of sales at Skylock, a company that designs anti-drone technology which is part of the Avnon Group, told The Media Line.
“You have forensic data: You can tell where the drone had been flying, what its course was, where it took off from inside Israel, where it was sent to gather information. It enables you to find out what the other side was interested in,” Lebovitz said.
Last month, Israel’s military used radio jamming technology to intercept a drone belonging to Hizbullah which crossed into Israeli territory. It was the second time in only a few weeks that an errant Hizbullah aircraft was downed by Israel.
An expert on anti-drone warfare told The Media Line that Israel’s current strategy to combat hostile UAV is outdated and ineffective, likening it to “firing a cannon battery on a single fly.”
“These are extremely powerful jammers, which really aren’t required in most cases,” the analyst added.
“There certainly are more elegant and surgical techniques,” Lebovitz said. “And when you’re dealing with autonomous drones that don’t have an operator, jamming isn’t effective at all.”
He details methods such as deploying an array of suicide drones, or a network of sensors which can locate an operator without disrupting and compromising urban areas, as superior strategies.