The Israel Defense Forces on Saturday denied any connection to a drone captured by Syria near the Israeli Golan Heights, saying it was an Iranian aircraft.
“Today we saw the Syrians prove that [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force commander Gen. Qassem] Soleimani does what he wants in Syria and definitely doesn’t tell the Assad regime what he is up to,” wrote the IDF’s Arabic spokesman Avichai Adraee.
Earlier Saturday, Syria’s state news agency SANA said authorities have captured and dismantled a drone rigged with cluster bombs near the border with the Israeli Golan Heights.
SANA gave no further details about the drone but posted several photos.
The news agency also reported that Syrian forces found Israeli-made vehicles and material in Bariqa, a village near the deserted border city of Quneitra.
Israel frequently conducts airstrikes and missile attacks inside war-torn Syria but rarely confirms them. Israel says it targets mostly bases of Iranian forces and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah in Syria.
But Adraee said it was definitely “not an IDF drone,” noting that it was found in the same area where the IDF attacked last month to foil an Iranian drone attack on Israel.
In that case the Israeli military said its strike targeted operatives from the Quds Force as well as Shiite militias who had been planning on sending “kamikaze” attack drones into Israel armed with explosives.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said it was not clear if Syrian troops or members of Hezbollah downed the drone Saturday. Hezbollah has fighters in different parts of Syria where they are fighting on the side of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.
The incident came two days after another drone was destroyed over the Damascus suburb of Aqraba. That’s the same suburb where an Israeli airstrike killed two Hezbollah operatives last month.
No one claimed responsibility for the drones.
In neighboring Lebanon, a government investigation concluded Thursday that two alleged Israeli drones were on an attack mission when they crashed in the capital in August, one of them armed with 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) of explosives.
The type of UAV used in the Beirut attack has raised considerable questions about the drones’ provenance, with analysts suggesting they could be Iranian.
Israeli media have reported that the drones in Beirut targeted an office housing a “planetary mixer,” a large industrial machine that is critical to making precision-guided missiles. Hezbollah denies it produces such weapons in Lebanon.
Israel has said it would not allow the group to have precision-guided missiles, as that would be a game-changing technology.
Israel considers Iran to be its greatest enemy, and the Iran-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah to be its most immediate military threat. Hezbollah has a battle-tested army that has been fighting alongside Assad’s forces in Syria’s civil war.
Israel has acknowledged carrying out scores of airstrikes in Syria aimed at preventing alleged Iranian arms transfers to Hezbollah. But in August, Israel was believed to have widened its campaign and struck Iranian or Hezbollah targets in Iraq and Lebanon as well.