[UPDATES IN EXTENDED ARTICLE]
16:20 IL: According to preliminary reports, the Israeli Air Force responded to an aerial infiltration in the area of the Haifa coast a short time ago. An unidentified aircraft was detected in Israeli air space. Two F-16 fighter jets were scrambled in a standard response. It was determined to be an unauthorized pilotless aircraft, and the order was given to down it.
The incident is being confirmed at this time but details are sketchy. It is being reported the aircraft was traveling at about 6,000 feet. The type of craft and circumstances surrounding the decision to down it are not being released at this time. Veteran military affairs corresponded Carmella Menasha reports it appears the aircraft came from north of Israel and at this time authorities do not know if Hezbollah or Iran are behind the incident. She added the aircraft “was small”.
UPDATE 16:33 IL: Officials are reporting the drone which penetrated Israeli airspace from Lebanon was detected while it was still over Lebanese airspace. The decision was made to down it in the area west of Haifa.
UPDATE 16:40 IL: At the time of the drone incident, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was in a helicopter heading to northern Israel. The chopper was compelled to land immediately until the incident was ‘under control’. Mr. Netanyahu was constantly briefed as the event unfolded.
UPDATE 17:23PM IL: The following is from the IDF Spokesperson’s office:
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attempted to violate Israeli airspace from the north at approximately 2 p.m. this afternoon (Thursday, April 22). The UAV was tracked by IDF ground and aerial surveillance for the duration of its flight path as it attempted to approach Israel’s coast. Israel Air Force aircraft intercepted the UAV and successfully downed the target five nautical miles off the coast of the northern Israeli city of Haifa.
IDF naval forces are currently searching the area.
This is the second time in the past seven months that a UAV has been intercepted in Israeli airspace.
UAVs pose a serious threat to the State of Israel’s security. The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to violate Israel’s sovereignty or harm its security.
In October 2012 the IDF downed a UAV over the northern Negev. The UAV had infiltrated Israeli airspace from the direction of the Mediterranean Sea. The craft was identified by IDF control systems and was tracked for the length of its flight path in Israeli territory by ground and aerial surveillance, including IAF fighter jets. After several minutes, the craft was successfully brought down in the northern Negev desert, to avoid potential harm to a populated area.
During the Second Lebanon War in August 2006, Israel Air Force fighter jets intercepted two Ababil UAVs launched by Hezbollah toward Haifa. The UAVs were located and identified by the IAF’s northern air-defense and aerial control units before it managed to cross the border from Lebanon into Israel. The UAVs were downed by F-16C fighter jets – one fell in the Mediterranean Sea in Lebanese territory while the other was taken down north of Haifa.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)