While the army refused to comment on the reports, witnesses reported seeing a convoy of missile-defense batteries heading north near the Israeli-Arab city of Baka al-Gharbiya. Other witnesses posted photos of several trucks carrying the batteries on central highways in northern Israel.
Israel’s air defenses currently include the Iron Dome, designed to shoot down short-range rockets; the Arrow system, which intercepts ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere; and the David’s Sling missile-defense system, which is designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets and cruise missiles fired from ranges of between 40 km to 300 km.
Israel also has Patriot-missile batteries stationed in the North and has used them to intercept drones infiltrating into Israeli airspace from Syria. In September, an Iranian-built unmanned aerial vehicle breached the “Bravo line” that marks the Syrian demilitarized zone, and was intercepted by an Israeli Patriot anti-ballistic missile launched from a station near the northern city of Safed.
The first use of the Arrow system was in April when it was launched to intercept three surface-to-air missiles fired toward IAF jets by Syrian-regime air defense.
On Saturday, an Iranian drone, which took off from Syria’s T4 airbase in northern Homs province, flew through Jordanian territory before it infiltrated into Israel. It flew for about a minute and a half in the northern Jordan Valley before it was shot down by a helicopter flown by Lt.-Col. “L.”, commander of the 113 Squadron.
“The squadron was sent to protect the country’s skies,” L. said. “We identified the aircraft as an Iranian drone, and when it crossed the border, we shot it down into Israeli territory. The squadron is ready and prepared for any task it is given.”
IAF chief-of-air-staff Brig.-Gen. Tomer Bar, who is second in command of Israel’s air force, said the drone was an advanced model with a low signature that Israel had never intercepted before. It is currently being examined by the IDF.
In retaliation for the incursion, eight jets took off to strike the drone’s launch site. During the operation, Syrian regime forces fired around 20 antiaircraft missiles at the jets. The pilot and navigator of one of the planes ejected themselves when they recognized that one of the missiles had locked onto their jet.
According to the IDF, Iran and the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards have been operating at the T4 base “for a long time, backed by Syrian- army forces and with the approval of the Syrian regime.”
“Iran has been using the base in recent months for the purpose of transferring weaponry to be used against Israel,” said the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. “These actions by Iran at the base are ostensibly carried out under the guise of supporting the fighting against the global Islamic jihad forces, but the actions carried out in the past 24 hours prove that its real concern is direct, violent action against Israel.”
“In the Iranian action, all the Israeli warnings against Iranian consolidation in Syria were realized,” it continued. “The attack was initiated and Israel was forced to respond first to the threat in its territory and then to the hostile elements operating from the Syrian territory opposite it.”
A senior official in Israel’s defense establishment on Sunday warned that Iran is determined to entrench itself in Syria and will continue trying to attack Israel.
“As far as we are concerned, the event is over but the Iranians are determined to continue to establish themselves in Syria; the next incident is only a matter of time,” he said, warning that Israel does not rule out that the Islamic Republic will continue trying to attack Israel.
“We do not know what the mission of the Iranian drone was. It is their most advanced drone and they did not expect our radar to detect its penetration into our territory,” the senior official stated. “Our aerial freedom will not be harmed. We will continue to destroy targets.”