Hamas Has More Drones Up Its Sleeve, Defense Officials Say

Still, some officers note the modest firepower of the group’s latest weapon.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
Screengrab from Youtube showing purported footage from Hamas drone, July 14, 2014
Screengrab from Youtube showing purported footage from Hamas drone, July 14, 2014Credit: Youtube
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Hamas is thought to possess several unmanned aircraft systems, defense officials said Monday after the Israel Defense Forces shot down a drone near Ashdod.

A senior officer said Military Intelligence has closely followed the development of unmanned aerial vehicles in both Lebanon and Gaza, and Israel has even attacked sites in the past where such drones were manufactured. He said the IDF feared an attempt to carry out a terror attack using a drone.

“We’re sort of in a money time because they [Hamas] want to return with an achievement,” he said.

But an air force officer said the dangers posed by a drone attack from Gaza weren’t great because Hamas’ drones “aren’t super bombers, they’re like model airplanes – not very large.”

“If it takes photographs, it’s 10 watts, and if it attacks, it’s less than a rocket in its capabilities,” he said, referring to the possibility of a suicide drone laden with explosives. The air force is prepared for such a possibility, he added.

Another officer also referred to Hamas’ drones as “model airplanes” rather than UAVs, which are more technologically sophisticated. But the IDF gave no other details about the drone that was shot down Monday.

In April 2013, a drone from Lebanon was shot down over the sea near Haifa. The previous October, a UAV entered Israel from the Gaza Strip and flew above Israeli communities before being shot down over the Yatir Forest in the Negev.

Both those drones were downed by fighter jets; Monday’s drone was downed by a Patriot missile. According to the air force, that was the battery’s first operational interception since the 1991 Gulf War.

During Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza in November 2012, the IDF said it had struck Hamas facilities that were being used to develop drones capable of carrying explosives. The GOC Southern Command at the time said the IDF had destroyed “advanced weaponry – like the development of a UAV that isn’t used for photography but for attacks deep inside Israel.”

Israeli intelligence has said in the past that it believes Hezbollah has a double-digit number of UAVs.

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