IDF says its F-35 jets intercepted 2 Iranian drones ferrying arms to Gaza last year

Reports say aircraft were carrying firearms for terror groups; military says March 2021 interception was carried out ‘in coordination with neighboring countries’

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

In this photo released on May 21, 2021, by Sepahnews, the website of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a new drone, called Gaza, is displayed in an undisclosed location in Iran. (Sepahnews via AP)
In this photo released on May 21, 2021, by Sepahnews, the website of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a new drone, called Gaza, is displayed in an undisclosed location in Iran. (Sepahnews via AP)

The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday announced that it downed several Iranian drones heading for the Gaza Strip last year.

Two aircraft were intercepted by F-35 jets far from Israel’s borders in March 2021, the IDF said in a statement. According to Channel 12 news, a third drone was downed using electronic warfare means.

“The interception of the UAVs was carried out prior to them entering Israeli airspace, in coordination with neighboring countries,” the military said.

“The UAVs were detected and tracked throughout their flight by ground control units,” it added.

The IDF said it was the first time F-35 jets have been used to take down a drone.

According to Hebrew-language media reports, the drones were carrying firearms, specifically pistols, destined for terror groups in Gaza.

Illustrative: Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Gen. Hossein Salami, left, and the Guard’s aerospace division commander Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh talk while unveiling a new drone called ‘Gaza,’ in an undisclosed location in Iran, in a photo released on May 22, 2021. (Sepahnews of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, via AP)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz accused Iran last November of launching a drone from Syria into Israeli airspace in 2018, to ferry TNT to terrorist operatives in the West Bank.

The timing of the military’s announcement on Sunday, a full year after the incident, was unclear.

Last month, Israeli television reported that Israel and its regional allies were developing a joint defense pact to protect against the threat of drones.

An Israeli F-35 fighter jet takes off during the military’s Blue Flag exercise in October 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

According to Channel 12 news, Israel began working on the arrangement with regional countries following drone and cruise missile attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that have been attributed to Iran’s proxies in Yemen and Iraq.

The TV report came after Israeli air defenses failed to down a small drone that entered the country from Lebanon, which the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group claimed responsibility for launching.

It also follows a number of recent drone attacks on American forces in Iraq and targets in the UAE, including a strike on Abu Dhabi in January claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels that left three dead.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

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