The foreign drone that Israel shot down last week reportedly transmitted pictures of preparations for a joint Israeli-US military drill, as well as ballistic missile sites, main airfields and, possibly, the nuclear reactor in Dimona.
Unnamed sources told the Sunday Times the drone was launched from Lebanon by technicians from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, with the help of Hezbollah. The unmanned aerial vehicle is reportedly believed to have been been the new long-range Shahed-129, which was unveiled by Tehran last month.
Israeli reports, by contrast, have indicated that the drone — monitored by the Israel Air Force along its route, and shot down some 18 miles north of the Negev Nuclear Research Center in Dimona — was relatively old-fashioned, and incapable of relaying surveillance information back to its senders in real time.
Amos Gilad, a top aide to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, said last week that the drone had failed to gather any intelligence or damage Israel’s air defense superiority.
A former commander of Israel’s drone unit said it couldn’t have filmed anything that wasn’t already available on Google Earth, despite claims to the contrary by Iran.
On Thursday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah claimed responsibility for launching the drone, saying that it had been assembled by his Lebanese-based terrorist organization using parts provided by Iran.
Nasrallah said the drone sent last Saturday was named the Ayoub, honoring both an Islamic prophet (of patience) and a “martyr” by the name of Hussein Ayoub.
“Today we are uncovering a small part of our capabilities, and we shall keep many more hidden,” Nasrallah said in a televised address. “It is our natural right to send other reconnaissance flights inside occupied Palestine … This is not the first time and will not be the last. We can reach any place we want” inside Israel, he said.
On Friday, Hezbollah’s TV station, Al-Manar, released a simulation video of the drone’s flight path. Set to music, the clip claims that the UAV “entered Israel’s operational airspace, passed by radars and Iron Dome, and flew over oil rigs and Israel Air Force bases.”