Of all the hostile elements seeking to harm Israeli national security, only two have the capability, track record and motivation to send drones into Israeli airspace: Iran and its Shi’ite proxy Hezbollah.
The IDF has refused to comment on where the drone that was intercepted Saturday over southern Israel originated, or who sent it, but several factors point to Tehran and its Lebanese terror organization as prime suspects. Ten days ago Iran showcased a new long-range drone it said could fly to Israel and carry out reconnaissance or bombing missions.
The drone, called Shahed-129, was proudly unveiled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps at the end of September.
If Tehran wanted to send a drone toward Israel, however, it would not have to launch one from its own territory. It has already set up a military base in southern Lebanon in the form of Hezbollah, a terror entity that has been trying to infiltrate Israeli airspace with its own drones for several years.
During the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Israeli F-16 fighters intercepted a Hezbollah drone packed with explosives that was heading toward central Israel. The small, low-flying aircraft was tracked by the air force as soon as it took off from Lebanon.
In September, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said his organization could bomb the Dimona nuclear reactor in southern Israel.
And last week The New York Times cited classified Pentagon data as indicating that Iran had practiced bombing runs on Dimona and Haifa.
In light of this background, it seems reasonable to conclude that Iran and Hezbollah are testing out their latest drone capabilities to see how far they can get into Israeli air space and to test Israeli responses.
The latest incident appears to be a brazen message from Tehran and Hezbollah saying that in any future conflict, they will attempt to reach sensitive points deep inside Israel.
Israel will now have to decide how to respond.
Israeli security officials are reportedly examining the possibility that a drone shot down deep in Israeli territory on Saturday may have been despatched in a Hezbollah-Iranian operation and may have been sent to surveil the Dimona nuclear site.
The army was still examining the remains of the downed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) Saturday night and had released no official information about its investigation. But Israeli media reports suggest officials fear the drone may have been part of a larger operation to spy on strategic sites inside the country.
According to the Hebrew website Ynet, defense officials are examining the possibility that the drone was sent as part of an Iranian-backed operation meant to photograph the Dimona nuclear installation, home to Israel’s nuclear weapon program according to foreign media reports.
The drone reportedly originated in Lebanon, but took a circuitous route through the Mediterranean sea and around Israeli territorial waters before turning east and flying over Gaza and into Israel, according to reports on Israel Radio and in Maariv.
That route may have been designed to conceal the origin of the unmanned aircraft, or to evade Israeli detection. Nonetheless, the army reported that it began tracking the plane while it was still over the sea and shot it down over the Yatir forest, on the edge of the southern Negev desert, after it reached an unpopulated area.
The IDF suspects that the small UAVintercepted Saturday morning by IAF jets over the northern Sinai was launched by Iranian proxy militia Hizbullah. The drone may have been targets for Iranian attacks.
The defense establishment has been looking at the fragments of the UAV, which fell in the area of southern Mount Hevron. reports, Israel initially suspected that it was launched from Sinai, but by Saturday evening, military sources said the military investigation showed the UAV had flown southward along Israel's Mediterranean coast before turning east over Gaza and heading into Israeli airspace. It is believed to have been launched from Lebanon.
The IAF's Aerial Unit identified the UAV, which was not armed and probably served only for intelligence purposes – collecting data about IDF bases and the IAF's operational abilities.
The UAV is believed to have been equipped with cameras that transmitted the images they captured onward to receivers located outside of Israel
Debka weighs in:
Israel Wages Cyber Battle Over UAV, Satellite-Guided By Iran Or Hizballah
Israeli intelligence and air force waged a cyber battle Saturday, Oct. 6 with unidentified parties, most likely Hizballah or Iran, who sent a satellite-guided unmanned helicopter into Israeli air space through the Mediterranean. DEBKAfile’s military sources report exclusively that for 30 minutes, as the helicopter flew over southern Israel, control swung back and forth between Israeli cyber operators and unknown agents.
The battle was finally resolved by an Israel decision to scramble four F-16 fighters to shoot the trespasser down, the while Israeli cyber experts tried to identify its satellite controller.Defense Minister Ehud Barak released a statement saying that Israel takes a very grave view of the incursion and will weigh its response.
Israeli air force jets were scrambled Saturday, Oct. 6 to shoot down a small unmanned aircraft from Gaza. It was downed over the Yatir forest in the southern Mt. Hebron district after cutting across southern Israeli airspace. It crashed at around 1000 local time. Israeli troops are scouring the area in search of fragments...military sources reports that the unmanned plane was sent over Israeli airspace at the start of a military mobilization exercise conducted by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It is coordinated with Hizballah and sponsored by Iran. The Lebanese terrorist group may have helped Hamas launch the aerial vehicle, which came in from the west.
It as shot down almost half an hour after the intrusion. The IDF spokesman denied it caught Israel intelligence unawares. He said the UAV was tracked from the start and the operation for downing it was delayed to avoid harm to civilian locations in its path.
Our sources add that the plan for the Gaza exercise was approved in the talks Hamas leaders Mahmoud A-Zahar and Marwan Issa held with Iranian and Hizballah leaders in Tehran and Beirut in the second week of September. They agreed then that Hamas would take active part in any Iranian or Syrian conflict with Israel.After launching the small UAV, Hamas went ahead with its call-up of reserve strength for active duty. Roadblocks were thrown up to keep Gaza Strip roads from being clogged with civilian traffic and speed up military movement. Palestinian sources claim that before it was detected the Hamas craft managed to fly over Israeli bases and towns including Beersheb