Army says aircraft downed by IDF in north this week likely an Iranian drone

Drone debris still being probed, military source says; interception occurred shortly after Tehran confirmed death of second adviser in alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria

A screengrab from a video posted on October 31, 2022, to the IRGC's Telegram channel shows what seems to be an Iranian attack drone hangar. (The Middle East Media Research Institute)
A screengrab from a video posted on October 31, 2022, to the IRGC's Telegram channel shows what seems to be an Iranian attack drone hangar. (The Middle East Media Research Institute)

Iran appears to have been behind the launch of a drone that was brought down over Israeli airspace this week, a military source said Monday.

The source gave the IDF’s preliminary conclusions a day after air force helicopters and fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the drone when it entered Israeli territory from Syria. There were no casualties in the incident, but it added to the already heightened tensions between the two arch-enemies.

Debris from the downed aircraft has been collected and is continuing to be examined, the source said. The craft was downed using “electronic warfare.”

The interception happened shortly after Iranian state media reported that an Iranian adviser who was wounded in an Israeli airstrike in Syria over the weekend had died of his wounds. That made him the second Iranian adviser allegedly killed by Israel in the airstrike.

A drone flying over the Gaza Strip was also shot down on Monday, the military said, adding that it had not represented a threat.

“The craft did not cross into Israeli airspace and did not represent a threat at any time,” the IDF said, without providing any further details.

Last week, Greece announced the arrest of two Pakistani operatives it said were planning an attack on a Jewish center in Athens. Israel has said Iran was behind the plot.

Since the start of Syria’s conflict in March 2011, Iran has been a main supporter of President Bashar Assad’s government and has sent advisers and other assistance to the Syrian leader.

Throughout the Syrian war, Israel has carried out scores of airstrikes in the neighboring country. Most of these strikes have been aimed at Iranian targets or suspected arms shipments to Hezbollah and other Iran-backed groups that have sent troops to back Assad.

Smoke rises from a site in the al-Midan neighborhood of Damascus, following an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria, early March 30, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Israel considers Iran to be its greatest enemy, citing the country’s hostile rhetoric, support for terror groups like Hezbollah, and its suspected nuclear program. Iran denies Western allegations that it is pursuing a nuclear bomb.

Israel appears to have stepped up its activities in Syria recently. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition-linked war monitor, says Israel has struck targets in Syria nine times so far this year.

Israel rarely acknowledges individual strikes. But on Sunday, the Syrian state news agency SANA, citing military sources, said Israeli strikes targeted sites in the city of Homs and surrounding countryside. Syrian air defenses intercepted the missiles and shot down some of them, it said.

The scene of an apparent bombing at Megiddo Junction in northern Israel, March 13, 2023. (Courtesy: Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The observatory reported that the missiles targeted Syrian military sites and those of Iran-linked militias, including a research center.

Tensions in northern Israel have escalated after the series of airstrikes, a terror attack that is believed to have been carried out by an intruder from Lebanon, and threats between Israeli officials and Iran. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday warned Iran and the Iranian-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah that Israel would not tolerate any efforts to harm the country or its citizens.

“We will not allow the Iranians and Hezbollah to harm us. We have not allowed it in the past, we won’t allow it now, or anytime in the future,” Gallant said. He also accused Iran of seeking to entrench its presence along Israel’s borders.

“When necessary, we will push them out of Syria to where they belong. And that is Iran,” Gallant added.

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