The Israeli air force shot down an unidentified drone on Saturday morning, around 10:00 am after it entered the country’s airspace from the Mediterranean Sea, an army spokesman and army radio reported.
According to AFP, soldiers are currently searching the area where the drone was downed, in open areas in the northern Negev, to locate and identify it, the spokesman added.
IDF Spokesperson Yoav Mordechai said that the aircraft was monitored and accompanied by fighter planes throughout its flight and that it was possible to shoot it down at any stage, “however, it was decided to intercept the aircraft near southern Mount Hevron for safety reasons.”
Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich said Israeli systems on the ground alerted the air force to the drone during the morning.
She said it flew over the Gaza Strip but did not originate from the Palestinian territory, sparking the country to launch an investigation into the drone’s starting point.
Leibovich did not give more details, but Israel media reported that it might have been an intelligence gathering drone, which was not carrying explosives.
She added that the Israeli air force was in control throughout.
She said: ‘We had monitoring contact from the ground and from the air.
‘We alerted jet planes that escorted the unmanned aerial vehicle and due to some operational considerations we decided to intercept the unmanned aerial vehicle in the northern Negev area, which has no population.’
It’s not the first time that Israel has shot down drones entering its airspace.
The Iran-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah has launched several into Israel over the past few years.
In the 2006 war, Hezbollah launched an Iranian-made drone capable of carrying explosives into Israel that was shot down.
Another one launched two years earlier crashed in the Mediterranean.
Israel and Iran are bitter enemies and tensions are high over Tehran’s nuclear program, which the West believes is intended for atomic weapons.
Tehran insists its atomic program is for peaceful purposes only.
Israel has hinted that military action should be taken to prevent Iran from getting nuclear bombs.
Leibovich would not elaborate how the unmanned vehicle was brought down. She said troops were searching for debris from the drone.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak congratulated the military.
‘We view this incident of attempting to enter Israeli airspace very severely and we will consider our response later,’ he said in a statement.