A Patriot missile was fired at a Syrian drone that infiltrated 10 kilometers into Israel on Wednesday afternoon, prompting a rocket-alert siren to go off in several communities in the Golan Heights. The IDF intercepted the drone over the Kinneret, Haaretz reports.
It was not immediately clear who launched the drone and there were no reports of injuries or damage. The military said the missile intercepted the aircraft and warned that it “will not allow any violation of Israeli airspace and will act against any attempt to hurt its civilians.” The siren was sounded around 3:30pm in Haspin, Givat Yoav, Ramat Magshimim, Kfar Haruv and Mevo Hama, among others.
According to Syrian media reports, Hezbollah positions were hit in the Quneitra province in Syria’s Golan Heights. The attack took place in the village of Khan Arnabeh and in another city in Quneitra, Syrian media reported. The Israeli army said the unmanned aerial vehicle was intercepted by the missile after infiltrating 10 kilometers Israeli territory, and was shot down over the Sea of Galilee.
The attack late Wednesday night was near Hader at the frontier of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and caused only material damages, Syrian state news agency SANA cited a military source as saying.
The IDF later confirmed that the drone managed to infiltrate 10 kilometers into Israeli airspace before the Patriot missile fired from near shot Safed it out of the sky, Ynet News adds. IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said that the drone was spotted before it entered the demilitarized buffer zone between the two countries.
“We spotted an unmanned aerial vehicle at around 3:20pm flying toward the buffer zone and we followed it. It was spotted before it crossed into the demilitarized zone. We carried out a number of activities to prevent friction and defense activities including calling four war planes and two combat helicopters and we prepared Patriot missile batteries. When we realized that there were optimal conditions, we intercepted the drone using one Patriot missile,” he said.
The IDF also issued a statement shortly after the incident.
“We carried out a number of checks before the interception and the missile was fired only when the conditional were optimal for it. The aircraft carried out a mission in the Golan Heights, including among our neighbors before it entered Israeli territory. We wanted to know which country it belonged to. It is reasonable to assume that it was not an operational act against Israel. It could have been intercepted at any time. We also followed it when it crossed Jordan,” the statement read.
According to LA Times, he attack comes hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow.
“We intercepted [the drone] and we will continue to act firmly against any infiltration, on land or in the air, and we expect everyone to respect [Israel’s] sovereignty and that Syria will observe the separation agreements,” Netanyahu told Putin at the beginning of the meeting.
Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday to try to enlist Moscow’s help in getting Iran to remove its forces from Syria — or at least pull back from Israeli lines. Israel has grown increasingly alarmed about the growing presence of Iranian troops and allied militias in neighboring Syria, where they have provided vital support to the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad in a grinding civil war.
“Iran needs to leave Syria — that is not something new for you,” Netanyahu told Putin as they headed into their meeting.
But while Russia and Iran are close allies in the battle to defend Assad’s government against the rebels trying to unseat him, some regional experts and diplomats question Putin’s ability — or interest — in persuading Tehran to pull out altogether. Iranian officials have repeatedly rejected such demands.
“No one can force Iran to do anything. As long as terrorism exists and the Syrian government wants, Iran will have a presence [in Syria]. Those who have entered Syria without the consent of the Syrian government should leave,” the country’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Qasemi, told reporters in comments cited by Iran’s semiofficial Tasnim News Agency in May.
Fyodor Lukyanov, a Russian analyst and editor of the quarterly journal Russia in Global Affairs, said that Putin’s primary concern in the discussions is to stabilize Syria and that U.S. agreement was necessary.
“The United States is not the biggest stakeholder, but a big one,” Lukyanov said. “And here, I think Trump’s and Putin’s aims are compatible.”
Israeli cabinet ministers threatened this week to fire on Syrian forces that enter the Golan buffer zone set up as part of a 1974 UN-monitored armistice, EWN adds. The United Nations last month renewed the mandate of its Golan observer force UNDOF and on Wednesday called on all parties to abide by the armistice.
“There should be no military forces in the area of separation other than those of UNDOF,” a UN spokesman said.
Israel has signalled openness to eventual ties with Assad, a tacit acknowledgement that he is re-consolidating power as he routs Syria’s rebels. Under Assad family rule, Syria held direct negotiations with Israel in the United States in 2000 and indirect talks mediated by Turkey in 2008. Netanyahu’s government has made clear it would not now cede the Golan and has been lobbying for U.S. recognition of Israel’s claim of sovereignty there.
Some Israeli officials have been floating the idea of a “grand bargain” under which the United States would ease sanctions imposed on Russia after it annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 in exchange for Russian assistance addressing U.S. and Israeli concerns about Iranian military entrenchment in Syria.
“More than one senior Israeli official has suggested to me that the United States should, in effect, ‘trade Ukraine for Syria’: Look the other way at Russia’s takeover of portions of Ukraine as the price for Russia expelling Iran from Syria,” Daniel Shapiro, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, wrote in a column in the Israeli daily Haaretz.