Israel Intercepts High Flying UAV Over Gaza

Israel Defense Forces dispatched F-15s to shoot down the vehicle, which fell within the Gaza Strip

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An F-15 during a military training for the IDF.
An F-15 during a military training for the IDF. Credit: אילן אסייג

The Israeli Army announced Tuesday that fighter jets intercepted an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flying at an unusual height over the Gaza Strip. The UAV flew four kilometers over the Strip, and F-15s were dispatched to shoot it down. The vessel fell within the Gaza Strip.

After the 2014 Gaza war, Hamas decided to focus its efforts on creating air power based on drones, as the Iron Dome missile defense system makes it difficult for group to inflict substantial damage with rockets. Iran provided Hamas with several UAVs. In one show of power by Hamas, it presented an Iranian Ababil drone that can be launched from a truck.

In the past, Hamas claimed to possess three types of UAVs for different purposes: The A1A for intelligence gathering; the A1B for attacks and the A1C for “suicide” attack missions by the aircraft.

Over the past year, Hamas established an air unit that operates UAVs, mainly for intelligence purposes. There have been drone infiltrations into Israel from Gaza, with some being intercepted and others returning to Gaza unscathed.

Drones have been spotted near Ashdod and Ashkelon, and in both instances, the Israeli army intercepted the aircraft with the assistance of Patriot missiles. However, the aircraft are not a significant force and, for Hamas, the primary advantage of these aircraft is their media impact.

The Hamas aircraft project suffered a serious blow in December 2016 when aerial engineer Mohammed Alzoari, a leader of Hamas's drone development program, was shot to death in Tunisia. During episodes of fighting over the past year, the Israeli military hit Hamas drone warehouses and production sites in Gaza.