An F-16 fighter jet shot down a drone as it attempted to violate Israeli airspace around 2pm last Thursday. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UVA) flew south across the Lebanese shoreline at an altitude of 6,000 feet. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spotted the vehicle and monitored its path, intercepting the drone five miles off Haifa’s coast. It remains unclear if the drone was armed.
The incident forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s helicopter to land briefly while he traveled to Julis, a village 20 miles from Haifa. Netanyahu voiced concern over the incident, “I see this attempt to breach our borders as extremely grave….We will continue to do whatever we must to protect the security of Israel’s citizens.”
An Israel F-16 warplane takes off from an undisclosed airport on April 26, 2005. (Photo: AFP)
Israeli military leaders believe Hezbollah, the Shiite terrorist organization and political party operating in Lebanon, is behind the escalation. While Hezbollah’s leaders released a brief statement denying responsibility, Danny Danon, the deputy defense minister, blamed Hezbollah for the attempted incursion. He told the army radio station the incident is “another attempt to destabilize the Middle East.”
Hezbollah has been known to launch drones into Israel in recent history. In October 2012, Israeli officials suspected the group launched another UAV from Lebanon that was shot down over the Negev desert after crossing through central Israel. The IDF successfully shot down two more after Hezbollah first deployed drones during the 2006 war in Lebanon. Israeli officials promised to retaliate for Thursday’s incident.