Israel Patriot Missile Intercepts Unarmed Drone from Syria


Israel fired a Patriot missile on Wednesday to intercept what initial findings showed was an unarmed Syrian drone that may have been on an intelligence mission, the Israeli army said.

It was not clear if the unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, strayed across Syria's ceasefire line with Israel unintentionally.

"UAV from Syria intercepted by Patriot missile, causing sirens in Golan and Emek HaYarden Regional Councils," an Israeli army statement said.

Emek HaYarden is a region located southwest of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said the object was apparently an "unarmed Syrian UAV, which appears to have been on an intelligence collection mission."

Israeli forces tracked the UAV, which had flown over Jordan before heading back to Syrian airspace, from where it crossed the ceasefire line with Israel.

Four fighter jets and two helicopters tracked it, the military said.

"Once the optimal conditions existed we decided to intercept the UAV with one Patriot missile," Conricus said, noting the Israeli army had first ensured it was not a Russian UAV.

The remains of the UAV and the Patriot were found on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee, some 10 kilometers (six miles) beyond the ceasefire line with Syria, Conricus said.

It was still unclear to the army whether the UAV had deliberately entered Israeli airspace or erroneously "strayed" in, Conricus told reporters in a telephone briefing.

Israeli police called on all boats to move out of the Sea of Galilee "due to security operations."

Israel has been on alert in recent weeks over fighting in the south of neighboring Syria, warning that ceasefire lines between Syria and Israel must be respected.

Spillover fire from Syria's civil war has occasionally landed in the Israeli-controlled Golan.

Israel is especially concerned about Iran's military presence in Syria.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly warned his country will not allow Iran, its main enemy, to entrench itself militarily next door.

In February, Israel intercepted what it said was an armed drone sent into its territory by Iran.

A series of strikes in Syria that have killed Iranians have been attributed to Israel in recent months.

Iran is backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the war, as is Russia.

Wednesday's incident came as Netanyahu traveled to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin.

Israel seized a large swathe of the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it, in a move never recognized by the international community.

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