The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has released a video that shows an Israeli air force jet intercepting a drone flying across the Negev desert in the south of Israel. According to the IDF, the drone crossed into Israel's airspace from the Mediterranean Sea.
The Telegraph reports the 10-minute clip shows what the Israeli Air force (IAF) says is a recording of the mid-air interception of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
The AFP reports the IAF jet shot down the unarmed drone on Saturday.
According to a spokeswoman of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), the Israeli ground systems detected the drone, alerted the IAF which dispatched a jet that shot down the drone with missiles.
AFP reports that Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, said: "An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was identified penetrating Israeli airspace this morning, and was intercepted by the IAF at approximately 10:00 am (0800 GMT)... This drone was spotted over the Mediterranean in a sector near the Gaza Strip before entering Israeli airspace, where the air force followed it. It was followed from the beginning until the time it was decided to intercept it and shoot it down for operational reasons over the Yatir Forest in the northern Negev, an uninhabited region."
According to The Telegraph, Leibovich said it was shot down after it had traveled 35 miles (55 km) over the Negev desert in the south of Israel.
The IDF spokeswoman concluded that the operation was a success. She said: "Israeli soldiers are at the scene and retrieving pieces of debris." The Guardian reports that an IDF spokesman, Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, also described the interception as an operational success.
The IDF, however, said that although the drone flew over the Gaza strip, it did not originate from the Palestinian territory. AFP also reports that the IDF said that the drone was not launched from the Gaza Strip. It is believed that the drone originated from Lebanon and that it may have been launched by Hezbollah.
The Israeli YNet News Agency, for instance, reports that Lebanese Hezbollah militants may have launched the drone. According to the YNet News Agency: "Hezbollah launched this drone. It is even possible that Iranians activated its launch and guidance system, and it is apparently of Iranian manufacture... The launching of such a craft over such a distance requires advanced means that Hezbollah does not possess up to now."
TSGT Kevin J. Gruewald / USAF
Two Israeli F-15I Ra'am jet fighter aircraft.
However, Israeli authorities have not confirmed the media report. Leibovich said the IDF was investigating the origin of the drone and gave no additional details. The Telegraph reports Leibovich said: "We are not certain at this point where is the origin of this UAV. However, we are witnessing lately in the region a very big and thriving industry for UAV's and of course we are following those attempts closely."
Israeli media have claimed that the drone was probably an intelligence gathering drone on a mission to investigate Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor. The authorities confirmed the drone was not carrying explosives.
Leibovich stressed that the security of the state was not in danger at any time and that the IAF was in control of the situation throughout. She said: "We had monitoring contact from the ground and from the air." She added: "We alerted jet planes that escorted the unmanned aerial vehicle and due to some operational considerations we decided to intercept the unmanned aerial vehicle in the northern Negev area, which has no population."
Leibovich said that IDF personnel were searching for debris of the craft. According to The Telegraph, soldiers were searching the area with the assistance of helicopters.
Reuters reports Defense Minister Ehud Barack described the interception as "sharp and decisive." He said: "We view this incident of attempting to enter Israeli airspace very severely and we will consider our response later."
The Daily Mail reports it is not the first time that Israel has shot down drones entering its air space. The Lebanese militia Hezbollah, has launched a few drones into Israel. According to AFP, in July 2006, Israel shot down an Iranian-made Hezbollah drone. A second drone crashed into the Mediterranean in 2008.