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Drone from Lebanon triggers sirens across north, evades Iron Dome

Military says jets scrambled and missile fired at UAV, but it missed, amid rash of recent drone incidents; no injuries or damage reported

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

A picture taken on April 9, 2018, shows an Iron Dome missile defense battery, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, deployed on the Golan Heights near the border with Syria. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)
A picture taken on April 9, 2018, shows an Iron Dome missile defense battery, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, deployed on the Golan Heights near the border with Syria. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

The Israel Defense Forces fired an Iron Dome interceptor missile at a small unmanned aircraft that entered the country from Lebanon Friday, but missed it, the military said.

The infiltration and failed interception attempts triggered air raid sirens across wide swaths of Israel’s north.

The IDF said it also scrambled fighter jets and attack helicopters to deal with the aircraft, which entered Israel a day after the army shot down two other drones that entered its airspace, one of them from Lebanon.

“A drone was spotted flying from Lebanese territory toward Israel. The drone crossed into our territory and its flight path was tracked by detection systems. Helicopters and fighter jets were activated, an Iron Dome interceptor was fired without a successful intercepting it, and sirens were activated on the home front,” the military said.

“After a few minutes, the drone returned to Lebanon,” the IDF said.

The military said the unmanned aircraft was a “glider” variety, but did not immediately comment further on the exact model of drone. It was not immediately clear if it had been armed.

The drone infiltration from Lebanon triggered sirens in communities throughout the Galilee and the lower Golan Heights, including the towns of Rosh Pina, Mishmar Hayarden, Kfar Hanasi and others, the military said.

Moments later a second round of sirens was set off by the launching of the Iron Dome interceptor missile at the drone, an IDF spokesperson said.

Friday’s infiltration came a day after the military downed a drone on the Lebanese border that it said belonged to the Hezbollah terror group and after warnings by Israeli officials of drone attacks in recent days. Troops also shot down a drone that entered Israel from Gaza.

On Wednesday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah claimed the Iran-backed group had begun manufacturing its own drones. “We have been producing drones in Lebanon for a long time, and whoever wants to buy them, submit an order,” he said.

Lebanon and Israel are technically in a state of war and the heavily guarded border is commonly penetrated by drones from both sides. Last month, Nasrallah claimed that Lebanon’s ability to shoot down Israeli drones had halted regular unmanned flights over the border. Israeli officials did not directly comment on the Hezbollah leader’s claims, but have expressed concerns over the terrorist militia’s anti-aircraft capabilities in the past.

On Sunday, Israeli troops accidentally opened fire on an IDF drone near the Lebanese border, after suspecting it was an enemy aircraft.

A top Israeli official warned earlier this week that UAV attacks were likely to increase, saying they were a growing problem worldwide. “It is cheap and easy to carry out attacks with them,” the senior official said, speaking on condition of anonymity during a state visit to Bahrain by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Israeli military officials have repeatedly warned of the threat posed by drones, both simple off-the-shelf varieties that can be used for surveillance and more powerful models, some based on Iranian designs, that can be used to carry out complex attacks.

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