Sunday, June 24, 2018

Syrian Conflict Moves Closer To Golan Border: IDF Fires Patriot Missile Toward UAV Approaching Israel's Golan Heights

IDF: Patriot missile fired at incoming UAV from Syria, which retreats

The Israel Defense Forces launched a Patriot interceptor missile at a drone that was heading toward Israeli airspace from Syria, prompting the incoming unmanned aerial vehicle to beat a retreat, the army said.
“As a result, the aircraft fled from the border. No interception was reported,” the army said in a statement.
The drone was being used as part of the Syrian military’s activities in the Quneitra region, near the Israeli Golan Heights, a commander in the coalition supporting Syrian dictator Bashar Assad later told the Reuters news service.

The IDF did not immediately identify the operator of the drone.
The military said its systems spotted the incoming aircraft and fired at it before the UAV reached the border.
“The IDF will not allow a violation of the aerial sovereignty of the State of Israel and will take action against any attempt to harm its citizens,” the army said.
Residents of northern Israel quickly began sharing photographs and videos showing the white trail left behind, apparently by the Patriot launch.
In recent days, fighting has intensified near Israel’s border with Syria, as dictator Bashar Assad’s forces, aided by the Russian military, move in on one of the last remaining areas of rebel-controlled territory in the country.
On Sunday, intensive clashes were reported near the southern Syria city of Daraa, with dozens of airstrikes that local activists said were carried out by the Russian air force.

Russia bombed rebel-held parts of southern Syria late Saturday for the first time since brokering a ceasefire there nearly a year ago, a monitor group said, as allied regime troops prepare a ground assault.
Southern Syria is a strategic prize for local and global players involved in the country’s convoluted seven-year war.
After securing the capital Damascus, Syrian President Bashar Assad appears keen to recapture the southern provinces of Daraa and Sweida, still mostly held by rebels.

He has sent military reinforcements there for weeks, dropped flyers demanding rebels surrender, and escalated bombardment in recent days.
Late Saturday night, his Russian allies bombed rebel-held towns in Daraa for the first time since the summer of 2017, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Intense Russian air strikes are hitting towns in Daraa’s eastern countryside for the first time since the ceasefire was agreed in southern Syria last year,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

The Observatory said the warplanes used Saturday — based on type, location, munitions and flight patterns — had come from the Russian-operated Hmeimim base in coastal Syria.
The Britain-based monitor said at least 25 Russian strikes hit the rebel zones but did not have any casualty figures.

Russia, the United States, and Jordan agreed in July of last year on a de-escalation zone in rebel-controlled parts of southern Syria that would tamp down hostilities there.
Since then, Moscow’s warplanes — active in Syria since 2015 — had refrained from bombing rebel positions in the south.
But violence has been ratcheting up this week as Syrian government forces look to retake the south militarily.
Forces loyal to Assad began ramping up their airstrikes and artillery fire on the zone on Tuesday.
At least 19 civilians in rebel-held zones have died since then, according to the Observatory.

The IDF confirmed firing a Patriot missile towards an unmanned aerial vehicle approaching Israel’s Golan Heights from Syria on Sunday. 

“Air defense systems as well as detection systems identified the threat in advance and before it crossed into the country,” read a statement released by the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit adding that the military “will not allow for a violation of Israel’s aerial sovereignty and will act against any attempt to harm its citizens.” 

The drone was in engaged in ongoing operations by the Syrian army, a commander in the regional alliance supporting President Bashar Assad said.

The interception comes amid a large-scale offensive in the southwestern Syrian province of Dara’a aimed at recapturing the strategic areas bordering Jordan and the Golan Heights from rebels.

Over the weekend the Syrian army, backed by Russian airpower and Shiite militias, pounded the rebel-held areas causing thousands of civilians to flee to other opposition held areas along the Israeli and Jordanian borders.

The border with Syria has been tense since the war erupted in 2011, and Israel has stepped out  strikes against Iranian military targets in the war-torn country as well as against Hezbollah weapons convoys in Syrian territory.

Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced their concern about the entrenchment of Iran and its proxies such as Hezbollah entrenching themselves in Syria and in February an armed Iranian drone sent to to carry out a sabotage attack was downed by an Apache attack helicopter after it infiltrated into northern Israel after taking off from the T-4 airbase deep in the Syrian province of Homs 

Following the infiltration Israeli jets took off to strike the launch site of the drone as well as the drone control vehicle that guided the drone into Israeli territory and were met by massive Syrian anti-aircraft fire. Over 20 missiles were launched toward the Israelis jets from SA-5 and SA-17 batteries. Shrapnel from the Syrian anti-aircraft fire hit one Israeli F-16i causing it to crash in the lower Galilee.  Both pilots evacuated from the jet.

Israel has used Patriot missile batteries stationed in the north of the country to intercept drones infiltrating into Israeli airspace from Syria. 

In September an Iranian-built unmanned aerial vehicle that breached the “Bravo line” that marks the Syrian demilitarized zone, firing one Patriot anti-ballistic missile stationed near the northern city of Safed.

The previous year a Patriot missile intercepted a UAV that was believed to have been gathering intelligence for the Syrian regime. The system was also used in July 2016, when two Patriot missiles were fired at a suspicious drone that crossed into Israeli airspace from Syria. Both missed their targets and the unmanned aircraft returned to Syria.

Israel’s air defenses also include the Iron Dome, designed to shoot down short-range rockets and the Arrow system which intercepts ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere and the David’s Sling missile defense system is designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets, as well as cruise missiles fired at ranges between 40 to 300km.  

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