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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Israel shoots down drone that entered from Syria

The incident came in the same week that Israel warned Syria against violating Golan Heights armistice

An Israeli helicopter searches the Sea of Galilee for the remains of a drone shot down by Israel. AFP
An Israeli helicopter searches the Sea of Galilee for the remains of a drone shot down by Israel. AFP

Israel shot down a drone that entered its airspace from Syria on Wednesday, with the Israeli military saying it wouldn’t tolerate incursions into its territory.

The unmanned aircraft had travelled 10 kilometres inside Israeli territory before it was destroyed by a Patriot Missile, according to military spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, who said the aircraft had been continuously monitored.

"We scrambled four fighter jets that were on standby for similar missions as well as two attack helicopters," he said.

There were no reports of injuries or damage, and the remains of the aircraft landed near the Sea of Gaililee, Lt Col Conricus said.

The drone was believed to be an unarmed Syrian craft that may have been gathering intelligence, he said, adding that it was unclear whether it had entered Israeli territory deliberately. It had also flown over Jordan, he said.

The incident was the latest in several incursions into Israeli airspace this year and came in the same week that Israel offered a strongly worded warning against any attempts by Syria to violate an armistice in the Golan.

On Monday, Israel threatened reprisals if Syrian forces – which are advancing against southern rebel areas – deployed to the demilitarised area that is monitored by the United Nations under a 44-year-old truce.

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Syrian troops are advancing against rebels in southern Deraa. A shortly expected victory could see the government soldiers turn to revel-held Quneitra, which is within the Syrian Golan covered by the armistice.

But Israel fears that Syrian allies Iran and Hezbollah could exploit the situation by moving forces close to the Israeli border.

"For our part, we will sanctify the 1974 disengagement agreement, and there too we will insist that every last letter be abided by, and any violation with meet a harsh response from the State of Israel," Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman told his parliamentary faction.

Wednesday's incident came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow for talks on Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war.

Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting in Syria but it has carried out dozens of airstrikes on alleged arms shipments bound for militant group Hezbollah.