After IDF collects remnants of unmanned aircraft shot down over southern forest, security establishment examining possibility it was launched by Hezbollah to photograph Israeli reactor; army fears drones will be used to hit strategic sitesRon Ben-Yishai
Published: 10.07.12, 00:37 / Israel News
After Israeli fighter jets shot down a drone over the Yatir forest in the south Mount Hebron area on Saturday, the army is trying to figure out what its destination was. One of the possibilities the security establishment is looking into is that the unmanned aircraft, which was apparently Iranian-made, was on its way to test the option of infiltrating the nuclear reactor in Dimona, perhaps even to examine the option of targeting the plant in a future conflict.
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The Iranians are aware that Israel has the capability to deal with rockets and missiles with its Iron Dome and Arrow air defense systems, but dealing with the threat of a slow drone poses a different kind of challenge.
As far as Israel is concerned, Saturday's incident calls for increased alertness and preparations to thwart such infiltration attempts in the future. In light of the successful interception and the volatile situation in the Middle East, Israel may decide to act with restraint and not respond at all. It will certainly want to avoid a massive response that may ignite the entire region.
IDF forces search for drone remnants (Photo: Haim Horenstein)
The drone apparently began its flight in Lebanon and then headed in the direction of Gaza's coastline after flying over the Mediterranean Sea. The drone's operators may have planned to take advantage of this fact in hopes of confusing Israel's detection and interception systems. However, the drone was detected while it was still flying over the Mediterranean Sea and was downed a half-hour later over the south Mount Hebron area after IAF jets made certain it was not carrying any explosives and that its main mission was intelligence gathering.
"No one knows where the drone came from yet, but the Palestinians do not possess such sophisticated aircraft. Maybe it came from Sinai and Egypt, but I prefer the idea that since it came from the sea it may have come from an American aircraft carrier and was shot by accident," the general said.
The retired general said the drone may have departed from one of the American bases in Saudi Arabia and rejected the possibility that it was launched from Lebanon or Jordan.
"If Israel will remain silent after its investigation and will close the file, that means that - like we said - it (drone) came from a friendly side and it is not in their interest to talk about it," he argued.
Yoav Zitun contributed to the report