Eilat school was hit by drone fired from Syria, IDF says as it strikes back

Military targets unspecified group behind Thursday attack on Israel’s southernmost city; Hezbollah says 7 members killed; UAV believed to have flown over Jordan

The scene of a blast in Eilat caused by a drone launched from Syria, November 9, 2023. (Courtesy)
The scene of a blast in Eilat caused by a drone launched from Syria, November 9, 2023. (Courtesy)

A drone that crashed into a school in Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat on Thursday was launched from Syria, the Israel Defense Forces said early Friday, adding that it had carried out airstrikes in response to the attack.

A statement from the IDF said it targeted the organization in Syria that launched the drone, without specifying who was behind the attack or what the air force hit.

“The Syrian regime is fully responsible for all terror activity that is carried out from Syrian territory. The IDF will respond severely to any attempt to attack the territory of the State of Israel,” said the statement.

Initially, the IDF did not know the origin of the unmanned aerial vehicle that hit the Tze’elim Elementary School, causing damage.

There were no serious injuries in the blast, but the Magen David Adom ambulance service treated five people for acute anxiety, and a man in his 20s for smoke inhalation.

Some 40 students were in the basement of the school when it was hit, local council officials said.

In surveillance camera footage from near the school, buzzing from the drone could be heard before the blast.

The UAV was believed to have been launched from southern Syria, traveling across Jordan, before hitting Eilat.

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group said seven of its fighters had been killed, but didn’t specify where they died other than to say that they were “martyred on the road to Jerusalem.”

A Hezbollah official and a Lebanese security official said the seven fighters were killed in neighboring Syria on Friday morning. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The seven were believed to have been killed in the early morning Israeli airstrike in the central Syrian province of Homs.

Since October 8, Hezbollah has been exchanging fire with Israeli troops along the Lebanon-Israel border. The latest deaths raise to 68 the number of Hezbollah fighters who have been killed since the Israel-Hamas war began last month.

Also Thursday, the long-range Arrow air defense system intercepted a surface-to-surface missile over the Red Sea launched toward the city.

Illustrative: An image of Israel and the US’s test launch of the Arrow 3 missile defense system on July 28, 2019. (Defense Ministry)

Sirens were activated in Eilat and its surrounding area in the evening as the missile approached. There were no injuries or damage in the incident.

The military did not immediately elaborate on who had fired the missile, but the interception came as Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed they launched a “batch of ballistic missiles” targeting “various sensitive targets” in southern Israel, including Eilat.

It was the first time that Israel’s most advanced air defense system, the Arrow 3, made a successful interception of a missile, according to the Israel Defense Forces and the Defense Ministry.

Previous interceptions with the Arrow system in recent weeks — a Houthi ballistic missile from Yemen and a long-range rocket from Gaza — were downed using the older Arrow 2 missile.

The Arrow 3, first deployed in 2017, is designed to take out ballistic missiles while they are still outside the atmosphere.

Later Thursday, the IDF said it intercepted another drone in the Arava region, north of Eilat.

The UAV, which did not enter Israeli airspace, was knocked out of the sky by the medium-range Patriot air defense system, the IDF said.

In recent weeks, the Houthis have attempted to fire drones and missiles at Eilat, though in all the attempts the projectiles were either intercepted or missed their targets.

Last week, the Houthis claimed a drone attack and said they had carried out three earlier strikes with drones and ballistic missiles.

They have said they are acting as part of the “axis of resistance” against Israel, which includes Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

Houthi forces “continue to carry out more qualitative military operations in support of the Palestinian people… until the brutal Israeli aggression against our brothers in Gaza stops,” Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree posted on X Monday.

Military loyal to Yemen’s Houthis chant slogans during a rally marking the seventh anniversary of the Saudi-led coalition’s intervention in their country, in the capital Sanaa, March 26, 2022. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)

The ongoing war erupted when Hamas terrorists stormed from Gaza into southern Israel on October 7, massacring some 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and seizing over 240 hostages in the deadliest attack in the Jewish state’s history.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza claims that more than 10,000 people, most of them children and women, have been killed in Israeli strikes in the Strip. That figure cannot be verified independently and is thought to include the terror group’s own fighters as well as Palestinian civilians killed by misfired rockets from Gaza.

Since the conflict began, there have been a string of attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria as well as almost daily exchanges of fire across the Israel-Lebanon border between Hezbollah and the IDF.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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