Officials: Iranian Drone Entered Israeli Airspace From Jordan

View of the fence separating northern Israel from Syria and Jordan, in the Golan Heights. (Doron Horowitz/Flash90)

The Iranian drone that was sent from Syria and set off a chain of events that resulted in the felling of an Israeli fighter jet and massive destruction to Syrian and Iranian bases in Syria entered Israel from Jordanian territory, said Colonel Tomer Bar, the head of the Israeli Air Force. The dispatching of the drone via Jordan was apparently done in order to trick Israeli early warning systems, which the Iranians believed would be paying attention to the Syrian border, not the Jordanian border. “They thought we would not realize what was happening,” Bar said of the Iranians’ intentions.

The drone entered Israeli airspace near Beit She’an, and was being tracked by Israeli forces even before it did so, said Colonel L., the pilot of the Apache helicopter who downed the drone. “We were summoned to defend the country’s airspace and immediately took on the mission,” he told Hadashot News. “We realized that it was an Iranian drone and we waited for it to cross the border, when we shot it down. We are always ready for whatever missions are assigned to us.”

The drone was being analyzed Sunday by Israeli security experts. According to the report, the drone is a close replica of an American military-grade drone, the RQ-170, one of which crashed in Iran in 2011. The Iranian version of the drone was displayed in a military parade in 2016. This is the first Iranian drone the IDF has been able to capture, and it is being studied closely in order to understand the current level of Iranian technology, the report said.

The downing of the drone set off a chain of events in which an IDF plane was shot down by Syrian missiles. Israeli planes hit Syrian targets in response to the invasion of Israeli airspace by the drone, and were met by a barrage of missiles fired from Syrian military bases, and an Israeli F-16 plane was hit by one of the missiles. Syrian sources said Sunday that six people were killed in the Israeli strikes, some of them foreign citizens.

The two pilots in the Israeli plane ejected themselves as it began to go down, and were taken by Israeli rescue workers to a Haifa hospital. Officials said that the two pilots were in much-improved condition on Sunday, with doctors saying Sunday that there was a good chance that they would recover fully. According to Hadashot News, an initial investigation indicated that the plane had not been hit by a missile, but that the missile had exploded in mid-air, causing damage to the plane’s engine.

In a statement Motzoei Shabbos, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that “our policy is clear, we will continue to defend ourselves against all aggression. We will respond to any attempt to violate our sovereignty. Iran attempted such a violation today. The Israeli Air Force shot down the drone dispatched by the Iranians and damaged the base that sent it. Israel also hit several Iranian and Syria targets that have been acting against us. This is our right and responsibility, and we will continue to do whatever is necessary – let no one be mistaken about this.”