Drone flew 30 km into Israel before IDF detected it, Hezbollah sources claim

Terror group officials say Hassan craft evaded monitoring systems on border; Lebanese daily publishes ostensible map of UAV’s route

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

People walk by a replica drone in a war museum operated by Hezbollah in Mlita Village, southern Lebanon, February 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)
People walk by a replica drone in a war museum operated by Hezbollah in Mlita Village, southern Lebanon, February 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

Hezbollah sources claimed Tuesday it took the Israeli military half an hour to realize that a drone launched by the Lebanese terror group last week had penetrated some 30 kilometers into Israel’s airspace.

Speaking to the Lebanese Al Akhbar newspaper, “well-informed” Hezbollah sources said the Hassan-model drone — apparently named after Hassan al-Laqis, a Hezbollah commander allegedly killed by Israeli gunmen in 2013 — was launched on Friday at 11:40 a.m.

The source claimed the drone managed to bypass monitoring and early-warning systems on the border, as well as the Iron Dome air defense system shortly thereafter.

“The enemy was not able to detect the [UAV] until 12:10 p.m. after it crossed some 30 kilometers… and arrived at the Rosh Pina area, near the city of Safed,” the source was quoted as saying.

The claim did not appear to be true. The army had activated alarms in several communities in the Upper Galilee and southern Golan Heights at 11:52 a.m., and in another area of the Galilee at 11:58 a.m., after an Iron Dome interceptor missile was fired at the aircraft.

The military did not say exactly when or where the air force first identified the drone.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, helicopters and fighter jets were scrambled to take down the drone, after the interceptor missile failed to hit its target.

The Hezbollah source claimed the F-16 fighter jets were traveling too fast to be able to detect the small, slow drone.

While the Iron Dome has been proven effective against drones in the past, it is believed the Hassan model was too small to be correctly identified by the system’s radar.

It took the IDF until 12:47 p.m. to announce that the military had lost contact with the drone shortly after launching an interceptor missile at it, and a further hour and a half after that to confirm that the craft had returned to Lebanese airspace “a few minutes” after it had first been identified.

The newspaper published a map (above) that allegedly shows the drone’s route through Israeli airspace. Hezbollah claimed Friday the drone had flown over Israel for some 40 minutes.

The terror group said the aircraft was on a reconnaissance mission, but it was not clear if it recorded any images while in Israeli airspace. The exact specifications of the Hassan model remain unclear.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah speaks via a video link during a ceremony to mark the second anniversary of the assassination of the head of Iran’s Quds Force, General Qassem Soleimani, in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, Lebanon, January 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

On Wednesday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah claimed his 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 they share 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.

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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