The Israeli Air Force shot down a drone flying over southern Israel on Shabbat.
The aircraft was shot down by two F-16I jets in an open area in the northern Negev region, and its remains were scattered in an open area in the south Mount Hebron region. Army forces were alerted to the scene in order to collect the remains in hopes of identifying the drone, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said.
According to an initial investigation, the drone penetrated Israeli airspace at around 10 am after flying over the Mediterranean Sea, near Gaza. The Air Force detected the drone as it approached Gaza’s coastline, and F-16I fighter jets were scrambled from the Ramon army base in the Negev to shoot it down.
The IDF estimates that the unmanned aircraft did not depart from the Gaza Strip. The aircraft’s country of origin has not yet been confirmed. It flew over Israel for less than 30 minutes and did not carry any explosives on it.
Here’s a short video of the IAF shooting down the drone (h/t Algemeiner‘s twitter feed):
The Israeli defence establishment is rumoured to be voicing concerns that the drone’s intended mission was to spy on the Dimona nuclear research facility.
Israeli security officials are reportedly examining the possibility that a drone shot down deep in Israeli territory on Saturday may have been despatched in a Hezbollah-Iranian operation and may have been sent to surveil the Dimona nuclear site.
The army was still examining the remains of the downed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) Saturday night and had released no official information about its investigation. But Israeli media reports suggest officials fear the drone may have been part of a larger operation to spy on strategic sites inside the country.
According to the Hebrew website Ynet, defense officials are examining the possibility that the drone was sent as part of an Iranian-backed operation meant to photograph the Dimona nuclear installation, home to Israel’s nuclear weapon program according to foreign media reports.
The drone reportedly originated in Lebanon, but took a circuitous route through the Mediterranean sea and around Israeli territorial waters before turning east and flying over Gaza and into Israel, according to reports on Israel Radio and in Maariv.
That route may have been designed to conceal the origin of the unmanned aircraft, or to evade Israeli detection. Nonetheless, the army reported that it began tracking the plane while it was still over the sea and shot it down over the Yatir forest, on the edge of the southern Negev desert, after it reached an unpopulated area.
No time like the present to get that shul in Dimona up and running. We need all the protection we can get.