(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)
Israel revealed on Friday that an Iranian drone shot down in Israeli airspace in February after launching from an airbase in Syria was carrying explosives. The base was attacked on Monday, allegedly by Israel, in a strike that reportedly targeted Iran’s entire attack drone weapons system — prompting soaring tensions between Israel and Iran.
The Iranian drone shot down in February was carrying enough explosives to cause damage, military sources said. Its precise intended target in Israel was not known, they said.
The February incident marked an unprecedented direct Iranian attack on Israel. Israel’s acknowledgement of the nature of the drone’s mission “brings the confrontation” between Israel and Iran “into the open” for the first time, Israel’s Channel 10 news noted Friday.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used a speech on Holocaust Remembrance Day this week to warn Iran: “Don’t test the resolve of the State of Israel.”
Iranian officials, for their part, have been vowing a response to the Monday airstrike, and an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader on Thursday threatened Israel with destruction.
The alleged Israeli attack this week on the base from which the drone was despatched is understood to have targeted Iran’s entire drone weapons system at the Syrian base, which was protected by surface-to-air missiles and other defenses, the TV report said.
“This was a harsh blow” to the Iranians, it added. “It is clear they will react.”
“An analysis of the flight path and operational and intelligence research performed on parts of the Iranian UAV that entered our territory on February 10 shows it carried explosive material and its mission was to carry out a destructive operation,” the Israel Defense Forces revealed Friday.
“The drone’s interception by attack helicopters thwarted the attack and the Iranian intention to carry out an operation on our territory,” it added.
The drone was tracked from Syria and shot down by IAF Apache helicopters 30 seconds after it crossed into Israeli airspace.
The army said that because it tracked the unmanned aerial vehicle throughout its flight, it did not pose any danger while in Israeli airspace.
Immediately after shooting down the Iranian drone on February 10, Israel carried out airstrikes against a number of Iranian targets in Syria, including on the T-4 base in central Syria where the Iranian operator of the drone was located.
During the aerial raids, an Israeli F-16 was downed by a Syrian anti-aircraft battery, crashing to earth in Israel, prompting further Israeli retaliatory raid against Syria’s anti-aircraft systems. Both the Israeli pilots ejected.
The statement from the army Friday came after the airstrike in Syria this week — blamed on Israel by Syria, Iran and Russia — reportedly killed 14 people, including seven Iranian military advisers, one of whom was a colonel in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps air force.
Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s Iranian-armed Hezbollah terror group, said Friday that the alleged Israeli airstrike on the Iranian air base in central Syria was a “historic mistake” that has brought Israel into direct conflict with Tehran.