Israel Air Force Chief Warns of Growing Threat From Hezbollah Drones

IAF is preparing to intercept small drones launched from Lebanon, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel says, adding that Israel is readying capabilities to deal with Syria's non-conventional weapons after Assad's demise.

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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Amos Harel
Amos Harel

Israel Air Force is preparing for the possibility that Hezbollah would attempt to penetrate Israeli airspace using miniature drones, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel said on Wednesday.

About 10 weeks ago the air force shot down an Iranian-made drone over the Negev in Israel's south. The drone was said to have been sent by Lebanon's Hezbollah, which later also claimed responsibility for it.

Speaking to reporters in Tel Nof military base, air force commander Eshel said that Hezbollah is acquiring, for a long period of time now, unmanned aerial vehicles in different sizes. He said the IAF is making preparations to intercept the tiny drones, which are much smaller, and thus harder to identify, than the UAV intercepted more than two months ago.

"It's not new that we are readying ourselves against this threat," Eshel said, referring to Hezbollah. "This field is developing and already now it requires us to come up with comprehensive answers."

However, Eshel was short of promising airtight protection. "In defense there is never a rock-hard wall that nothing can breach. The goal is to be prepared for the main and significant [threat] and to disregard the less important.

Eshel refused to directly comment on the blast that occurred on Tuesday in Lebanon near the Israeli border and only said that "it is no secret that Hezbollah is preparing weapon stockpiles in Lebanon, including in its south, contradicting UN resolutions. As for whoever holds stockpiles and sleeps with rockets," he said, "it's highly unsafe."

As for Syria, asked about the possibility that Assad's troops would lose control over its chemical weapons, Ehshel said that "the process of Syria's disintegration is a known fact," adding that "the trend is very clear."

Syria "is very close to the State of Israel, in our back yard," Eshel said. "In Syria there are weapons from every sort, including non-conventional weapons. The first question is what will happen on the day after [Assad falls]. We don't have a single answer. We need to prepare a response, in which the air force plays a key role."

Among other scenarios, he said, the air force is formulating a response to Syria's weapons, including its non-conventional capabilities. "We are preparing capabilities, that if decided to use – we will have to act and succeed."

Israel Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel is standing in front of an F-15 in Tel Nof air force base, December 19, 2012.Credit: Alon Ron

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