IDF: Fighter jets downed Egyptian military drone that entered Israeli skies

Incident occurred Monday in the southern Negev desert; defense source says UAV was unarmed, interception coordinated with Egypt

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

View of highway 10, on the southern Israeli border with Egypt. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
View of highway 10, on the southern Israeli border with Egypt. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

An unarmed Egyptian drone was intercepted by Israeli fighter jets over the southern Negev desert earlier this week, the Israel Defense forces said Wednesday.

According to the military, the incident occurred Monday near Mount Sagi, situated only a few kilometers from the border with Egypt. The IDF said the unmanned aircraft was monitored as it crossed into Israeli airspace.

The UAV, operated by the Egyptian military to monitor Islamic State activity in the northern Sinai desert, apparently ran into technical issues causing the operators to lose contact as it accidentally entered Israeli airspace, a defense source said.

The downing of the aircraft was coordinated with Egypt, the source added. The IDF said the incident was being investigated.

The incident came as Israeli air defenses were on high alert following Iranian threats to respond to the assassination of a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officer.

The military did not say why it kept the incident under wraps for two days, but Army Radio cited Egyptian sensitivities over the matter.

Egypt is battling an Islamic State-led insurgency in the Sinai that intensified after the military overthrew an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013. The terrorists have carried out scores of attacks, mainly targeting Egyptian security forces and Christians.

In 2018, it was reported that Israeli drones, fighter jets and helicopter gunships carried out more than 100 airstrikes against Islamic State-affiliated terrorists over a two-year period in the area, close to Israel’s border.

In May, the Islamic State accused Israel of assassinating a local jihadist group leader in an airstrike.

While security coordination between Jerusalem and Cairo is known to be close, the ties are unpopular in Egypt, despite three decades of official peace. In order to keep the cooperation under wraps, the Israeli aircraft are often unmarked and sometimes use indirect routes in a bid to cover up the origin of the strikes, The New York Times reported at the time.

Israeli and Egyptian officials have refused to confirm or comment on the reports.

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