IDF checks whether drone in north was sent by Hezbollah

Member of Lebanese terror group claims craft was photographing army activity in the Golan; IDF fired 2 missiles at intruder, but missed

Ilan Ben Zion is an AFP reporter and a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

A Patriot battery perched above the Haifa coast in August 2013 (photo credit: Avishag Shaar Yashuv/ Flash 90)
A Patriot battery perched above the Haifa coast in August 2013 (photo credit: Avishag Shaar Yashuv/ Flash 90)

The IDF was trying to ascertain Sunday whether an unmanned aerial vehicle that crossed into Israeli airspace from Syria in the late afternoon was sent by the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group, which is currently fighting alongside the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Channel 2 television reported.

Hezbollah-linked Lebanese fighter Anes al-Naqqash claimed on Twitter on Sunday that the drone had indeed been sent by his Shiite terror group, and said it had just begun photographing army maneuvers in the Golan when it was shot at and turned back. The tweet was flagged by Yossi Mansharof, an expert from the Ezri Center at the University of Haifa, who tracks Hezbollah movements.

The army believes that the UAV was Russian-made, Channel 2 said.

Russia, which is helping Assad maintain his grip on the country after more than five years of civil war, regularly sends its warplanes on sorties in Syria, ostensibly against the Islamic State group. It is also accused, however, of striking targets belonging to opposition forces that seeking to oust the Assad regime.

Israel fired anti-aircraft missiles at the drone, but failed to bring down the intruding aircraft. The IDF said in a statement that neither of the two Patriot missiles it launched had managed to hit the drone, which returned to Syrian airspace.

The Israeli Air Force scrambled fighter jets in the Golan Heights following the launch, the Ynet news website reported.

The launches triggered air raid alarms across northern Israel. No rockets were known to have been fired into Israeli territory, however.

Israel has shot down drone and fighter aircraft that have flown near the border with Syria in the Golan Heights several times in recent years. The IDF downed a drone in August 2014 and a Syrian fighter aircraft in September of the same year.

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