As TheBlaze reported Saturday, Israeli Air Force fighter jets downed a drone that entered Israeli airspace. The IDF released footage of the interception. Now, it appears there may be more to the story.
Ron Ben-Yishai, the well-connected military affairs correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, reports that one of the scenarios IDF analysts are investigating is whether the drone was headed to Israel’s nuclear reactor in the southern city of Dimona. He writes:
One of the possibilities the security establishment is looking into is that the unmanned aircraft, which was apparently Iranian-made, was on its way to test the option of infiltrating the nuclear reactor in Dimona, perhaps even to examine the option of targeting the plant in a future conflict.
A drone such as the one that was downed on Saturday after penetrating Israel’s airspace through the Mediterranean Sea could not cause serious damage to the reactor, but such an incident would mark a psychological victory for Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, whose leader Hassan Nasrallah recently threatened to attack strategic targets in Israel, including power plants.
On Sunday, the Lebanese television channel Al-Mayadeen which is affiliated with Hezbollah reported that the drone belonged to Hezbollah. Israeli media report that military officials also believe Hezbollah is behind the drone incursion, even though it flew into Israel from the south, passing Gaza on its way. This follows previous Hezbollah attempts at deploying Iranian-made drones over Israel
Just last week, Hezbollah published an infographic detailing visually how it aims to invade northern Israel and capture the entire Galilee region one day. The radical Islamist group’s online tour included its aspiration to capture northern Israel’s main cities (which it calls “Palestinian”) including: Haifa, Tiberias and Nazareth and – significantly – articulated a desire to target strategic assets including the country’s main oil refinery and seaport.
Ben-Yishai details the new complication the drone weapon poses for Israel:
The Iranians are aware that Israel has the capability to deal with rockets and missiles with its Iron Dome and Arrow air defense systems, but dealing with the threat of a slow drone poses a different kind of challenge.
Operating a drone by remote control from such a long distance requires advanced capabilities, which Israel was not aware Hezbollah had acquired. By examining the drone’s parts, the army hopes to find out whether the drone was controlled from a command center in Lebanon or was directed by a space-based satellite navigation system (GPS) according to predetermined coordinates. If that was the case, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) may have directed itself automatically and was supposed to return to its base or self-destruct over the sea.
Whether it was headed to Dimona or not, the IDF will have to reexamine its defense posture and how it defends against this new challenge. Ben-Yishai reports the drone was not carrying explosives, suggesting its focus was intelligence gathering.
Israeli military officials believe Hezbollah will eventually launch explosives-laden drones. A senior Israeli Air Force official told Ben-Yishai: “In the next war Syrian and Iranian drones will also be sent on ‘suicide’ missions.”
Israel is widely-believed to possess nuclear weapons, but has not publicly admitted it, preferring to stick to its policy of “nuclear ambiguity.”