Israeli forces shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle that entered the country’s southern airspace today, the military said in an e-mailed statement.
Soldiers were searching the Negev desert, where the drone was downed, to locate the wreckage and then identify the aircraft, Army spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich said by telephone. She said the drone entered Israeli airspace from the Mediterranean Sea and that the military doesn’t know its origin.
“We view the attempt to violate Israel’s airspace very gravely and we will consider our reaction,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, according to an e-mailed statement from the Defense Ministry.
The interception comes amid escalating tension over the nuclear aims of Shiite Muslim Iran, which has called for Israel’s destruction and supports the Shiite Hezbollah group in Lebanon. Iran denies allegations by the U.S., Israel and many of their allies that it may be trying to develop atomic weapons.
In December, the Iran televised images of a U.S. drone used for gathering intelligence that came down on Iranian territory. Last month, the Persian Gulf nation said was equipping its own drones with missiles.
Gerald Steinberg, a professor of political science at Bar Ilan University outside Tel Aviv, said it will be very important for Israel to find out the origin of the drone. The aircraft probably was being used for surveillance, he said.
“This is not a new strategic threat,” Steinberg said by phone. The incident “isn’t surprising, given the ongoing war led by Iran, whether directly or by proxies,” he said.
Israel has a nuclear facility in Negev desert town of Dimona, which it says is for research. The country’s policy has been neither to confirm nor to deny possession of nuclear arms.
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