IDF: Small drone entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon, brought down by troops
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IDF: Small drone entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon, brought down by troops

Military says aircraft had been under surveillance after it crossed border near Mount Hermon; soldiers searching the area for remains

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

ILLUSTRATIVE -- In this July 11, 2018 file photo, a drone equipped with a thermal camera flies over the plants at the Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources' Jennings Environmental Education Center on July 11, 2018 in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)
ILLUSTRATIVE -- In this July 11, 2018 file photo, a drone equipped with a thermal camera flies over the plants at the Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources' Jennings Environmental Education Center on July 11, 2018 in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

Israeli troops brought down a small drone that entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon on Thursday night, the military said.

The Israel Defense Forces said the aircraft crossed the border near Mount Hermon on the Golan Heights and was under surveillance by soldiers while it was over Israeli territory.

The military said troops brought down the drone, without specifying the method. Soldiers were searching the area for the remains of the device.

“The IDF is on high alert in the northern arena and will not allow violations of the sovereignty of the State of Israel,” the military said in a statement.

The downing of the drone on Thursday night was not directly connected to a false alarm on Friday morning, in which sirens sounded in Israeli communities throughout the western Galilee region sending residents rushing to bomb shelters.

However, it appeared to indicate the reason why the military was on high alert on Friday morning, incorrectly identifying an IDF aircraft as an enemy drone infiltrating Israeli airspace.

Over the past two and a half weeks, the IDF has been in a state of heightened readiness along the Lebanese border, girding for a potential attack by Hezbollah in retaliation for the death of one of its fighters in an airstrike in Syria that was widely attributed to Israel.

On Thursday night, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi decided to keep the army on high alert along the country’s northern borders, despite speculation that Hezbollah may call off, or at least postpone, its reprisals in light of the deadly explosions that rocked Beirut on Tuesday evening, killing over 130 people, injuring thousands and leaving nearly a third of a million people homeless.

Israel has been bracing for a possible attack from Hezbollah in retaliation for a July 20 airstrike in Syria attributed to the IDF, in which a member of the Iran-backed terror group was killed.

Defensively, the IDF moved troops away from areas vulnerable to attack and stepped up surveillance along the frontiers, and to prepare for the need to retaliate forcefully, the IDF also deployed infantry, special forces and artillery reinforcements to the area.

The IDF credits its heightened state of alertness with foiling an attempted attack by Hezbollah on July 26, in which a group of at least three armed terrorist operatives entered the Israeli-controlled area of Mount Dov, also known as Shebaa Farms, along the border.

Hezbollah denied carrying out the attack, saying the IDF’s claims were “absolutely false.” The group also said that it still plans to retaliate for the killing of its member.

The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, is set to give a televised speech on Friday, after postponing a planned Wednesday address due to the explosion.

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