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Netanyahu: Drone downed by IDF this week was armed, launched by Iran

PM says the UAV was dispatched by Iranian forces from either Syria or Iraq, accuses Tehran of backing terror groups in Gaza

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, shows visiting German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas fragments of a drone that Israel says was launched by Iran toward northern Israel, which was brought down by the Israeli military, on May 20, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/Government Press Office)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, shows visiting German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas fragments of a drone that Israel says was launched by Iran toward northern Israel, which was brought down by the Israeli military, on May 20, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/Government Press Office)

A drone downed by the Israel Defense Forces earlier this week was launched by Iran and was armed with explosives, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday.

Until now, the IDF has largely remained mum on the incident, in which the UAV was brought down as it approached Israeli airspace near the city of Beit She’an in the predawn hours of Tuesday morning.

According to Netanyahu, the drone was made by Iran and launched by Iranian forces toward Israel from either Syria or Iraq.

“Iran sent an armed drone to Israel from Iraq or Syria. Iranian forces launched the armed drone, which our forces intercepted on the border between Israel and Jordan,” Netanyahu said, speaking at a press conference alongside German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

It would be the second time Iran has sent armed UAVs into Israel. In a similar case in 2018, a drone was flown from Syria into northern Israel before it was shot down by an Israeli helicopter. In response, the IDF launched a wave of strikes on Iranian assets in Syria.

Netanyahu accused Iran of providing support and technical assistance to terror groups throughout the Middle East, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which receives most of its funding from Tehran, as well as Hamas, which also gets weapons and other help from the Islamic Republic.

“They provide the scaffolding on which these organizations really work,” Netanyahu said.

Tuesday’s airspace breach came amid ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.

At roughly 4 a.m. on Tuesday, the Israeli Air Force downed the drone as it approached the Israeli border from Jordan.

“The UAV was being monitored by IDF air control units. The fragments of the UAV were collected by security forces,” the military said.

Israel has a waged a nearly decade-long bombing campaign in Syria aimed at thwarting Iran and allied militias, including Hezbollah, from setting up bases to attack the Jewish state, as well as the transfer of advanced arms from Iran to Hezbollah.

Recent days have seen a number of attacks on Israel’s other borders apparently in solidarity with the Palestinians. Most recently at least four rockets were fired at northern Israel from Lebanon, one of which was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and another struck an open field in the town of Shfaram. The other two landed out at sea.

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