Israel's Patriot Missile System Downs Assad Regime Drone on Syrian Border

An intelligence-gathering drone was shot down after entering the demilitarized zone of the Israel-Syrian border ■ Contact was reportedly made with Russian military counterparts before the interception was authorized

File photo: A Patriot missile defense system during a military exercise.
File photo: A Patriot missile defense system during a military exercise. Ilan Assayag

Israel's Patriot missile defense system has shot down a drone on the border with Syria on Saturday, Israel's military has reported.

The intercepted drone reportedly belonged to the Assad regime and was on an intelligence gathering mission in the Quneitra area of the border. The drone then entered the demilitarized zone and flew towards Israel before being shot down.

>>Explained: Who wants a war in the Middle East? Seven key players and their interests<<

Israel's military is reported to have made contact with Russian counterparts operating over the border in order to verify that the drone did not belong to the Russian military. It was only after receiving confirmation that it was not a Russian operated drone that the military took the decision to shoot it down.

"The State of Israel views with great severity any violation of sovereignty and will respond with force to any provocation," Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Leiberman said following the incident.

The defense minister added that the Assad regime would be held accountable for any such violation, and that Israel would not permit the establishment of a Shi'ite axis in Syria to become a base for attacks.

Israel has been quick to operate according to its own "red lines" regarding escalations stemming from the Syrian conflict: An escalation of fighting in Israel's vicinity, the entry of foreign aircraft into the demilitarized border zone and the transfer of weapons.

In October, Israel struck three Syrian artilery cannons in response to errant rocket fire that landed in the Israeli Golan Heights.

The Israeli military said that despite the fact that the rockets that landed in Israel were spillover from the country's internal civil war, the amount of rocket fire necessitated a sharp Israeli response.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the strike in October that Israel will not tolerate spillover from Syria.

"We have a clear policy," the prime minister said. "We will attack anyone who attacks us. We won't accept spillover. If they attack us, we return fire. And it doesn't take much time."