Xinhua | CRI
The Israel Air Force on Saturday intercepted an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that penetrated the Israeli airspace, the military said in a statement.
A military spokesman said two fighter jets were scrambled from a southern air base at around 10 a.m. local time (0800 GMT) after a ground control station identified the drone, which was shot down over the Yatir Forest, an area in the northern Negev.
“At this time we do not know where it originated from and what its objective was,” Capt. Roni Kaplan told Xinhua.
The military said the drone was initially spotted entering Israeli airspace from the Mediterranean Sea and headed south, while a report in the Jerusalem Post said the UAV flew over West Bank settlements and military bases before it was downed.
Troops are currently canvassing the area where the drone was downed in an effort to locate debris that could shed light on its origin and objective, while the Air Force launched its own investigation into the incident, Kaplan said.
Local media outlets speculated, however, that the drone was either sent to collect intelligence or crash into an Israeli town or military installation.
The incident was the fourth of its kind in the past decade, according to the Ha’aretz daily. Small drones had previously crossed into Israel from its northern border with Lebanon, and were presumably operated by Hezbollah, which in recent years has shown interest in the field of UAVs, the report said.
The military meanwhile has not ruled out the possibility that militant groups in the Gaza Strip are behind the incident, although the chances of that are slim. In a statement, Defense Minister Ehud Barak praised the military and the Air force for their “quick and effective” response, saying that the interception occurred in an area south of Hebron.
“We view with severity the attempt to harm Israeli airspace, and we will weigh our response,” Barak said.