IDF shoots down Syrian surveillance drone over northern Israel
JACK GUEZ (AFP/File)
Israel shot down an unarmed drone that entered its airspace from Syria on Wednesday afternoon local time, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said.
The firing of a Patriot missile at the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) triggered rocket sirens in Israel's Golan Heights and Jordan Valley regions, and shortly after videos appeared on social media showing a trial of white smoke in the sky over Israel.
The drone was an intelligence-gathering aircraft and belonged to the Syrian government and its remains have already been retrieved just south of the Sea of Galilee, almost ten kilometers (six miles) inside Israel, an army spokesman told reporters.
He said the UAV had been tracked long before it entered Israel, flying through both Jordanian and Syrian air space. The army has not yet determined whether its crossing into Israel was deliberate or accidental.
Israel urgently checked with Russian and Jordanian officials that the drone did not belong to either country before it sent the Patriot to blast it out of the sky.
Footage of the Patriot missile intercepting the Syrian UAV that infiltrated Israeli territory today pic.twitter.com/g5MnjZLdyl— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 11, 2018
The IDF's top spokesman, Brigadier General Ronen Manelis, said that "the IDF will not allow violation of Israeli airspace and will act against any attempt to harm its citizens."
Shortly after the interception, police officers issued a warning that all boat operators should immediately leave the Sea of Galilee, known in Israel as the Kinneret, due to ongoing "operational activity."
The Patriot is a US-made mobile air defense system designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, low-flying cruise missiles and aircraft.
On June 24 the IDF fired at a drone inside Syria that did not manage to enter Israel's territory.
In February Israel shot down an Iranian-operated drone that it tracked entering its airspace from Syria.
That episode triggered a massive Israeli bombardment of Iranian military installations in Syria, fueling tensions that exploded in another round of rockets and counter-strikes later in the year.
Wednesday's incident came at the same moment Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Moscow ahead of a meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin.
As he sat down with the Russian president in the Kremlin, Netanyahu said Russian-Israel co-operation "is central to the prevention of these flare ups and deterioration of such situations."
Russia is allied with Iran and has been the military backbone behind Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's slow-burning recapture of territory controlled by rebel forces during the country's seven-year-long civil war.
Putin has, however, allowed Israel a largely free hand in carrying out air strikes on both Syrian and Iranian targets in the country.
Speaking in New York later Wednesday, Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon urged the body's Security Council to condemn Syria over the drone incursion.
“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," he 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."
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