IDF shoots down drone near Syrian border

IDF shoots down drone near Syrian border

Aircraft hit with Patriot missile as it flies into Golan; defense minister says Israel will 'respond aggressively' if attacked

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

An Israeli Heron unmanned surveillance drone (photo credit: AP/Ariel Schalit)
An Israeli Heron unmanned surveillance drone (photo credit: AP/Ariel Schalit)

Israeli forces shot down an unmanned aircraft as it entered the country from Syria on Sunday near an area that has seen heavy clashes between Syrian troops and rebels forces, the IDF said.

The drone was hit with a Patriot missile as it flew near Quneitra, the Syrian town that has been the stage for fighting between rebels and regime forces in recent days.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon praised the army’s swift response, which he said was “admirable,” and warned that Israel would not tolerate any attacks on its troops, “whether intentional or unintentional.”

“These past few weeks have proven that our tolerance for attempts to harm us is low, and if someone tries to test us, we will respond aggressively,” he said in a statement, alluding to the war in Gaza.

The army did not say who the drone belonged to. Army spokesperson Peter Lerner wrote on Twitter that the drone was Syrian, but an IDF spokesperson said she had no information.

“In spite of the IDF’s sensitivity to recent occurrences in the proximity of the border, we have repeatedly stated that we will respond to any breach of Israel’s sovereignty and will continue to act to maintain safety and security to the civilians of the State of Israel,” the Israeli army said in a statement.

There have been several cases of cross-border fire from the Syrian fighting over the past several days, with the Israeli army hitting back in some cases.

The clashes between Syrian forces and the Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda-linked group, have caught United Nations peacekeepers in the crossfire.

On Sunday morning, 40 Filipino peacekeepers made a bold escape from the border under fire, joining 75 others who escaped, but 44 more troops, from Fiji, remain in Nusra captivity, officials say.

Israel has shot down a number of drones sent into the country over the past years.

Last month, during Operation Protective Edge, an unmanned aircraft launched from the Gaza Strip was shot down by Israel as it penetrated Israeli airspace over the coast near Ashdod.

The drone set off air raid sirens in the city before it was downed by a Patriot surface-to-air missile launched from a location near the center of the country.

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