The Israeli military fired a Patriot missile at a drone that approached from Syria and infilitrated Israeli territory, the army confirmed Wednesday afternoon.
The army said the unmanned aerial vehicle was intercepted by the missile after infiltrating 10 kilometers Israeli territory, and was shot down over the Sea of Galilee.
An Israeli Defense Forces statement said that a preliminary examination of the wreckage shows this was an unarmed Syrian reconnaissance drone, which also flew over Jordan before entering Israeli airspace.
The IDF added that at this point it is still unclear whether the drone was on a reconnaissance mission when it flew into Israeli territory, saying that it may have veered off track.
Overall, the drone was flying within Israeli territory for a total of 16 minutes before it was intercepted.
After the drone was discovered, the Israeli military tried to make sure that his was not a Russian aircraft that crossed the border with Syria. At the moment that the military confirmed that the aircraft was hostile it was decided to down it.
The incident took place as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was heading to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow and the military tried to avoid intercepting a Russian aircraft, something that would possibly overshadow the meeting.
Netanyahu flew out to Russia Tuesday to meet with Putin at the Kremlin. Sources among Netanyahu's associates said Wednesdays that while the premier was aboard the plane en route to the Kremlin he was updated in real time regarding the drone from Syria that infiltrated Israel.
This will be the third meeting between the two leaders in the last six months, and it will take place as Syrian President Bashar Assad’s retaking control of southern Syria and the withdrawal of rebels from that area, as well as Israel’s efforts to keep the Iranians from gaining strength in Syria.
IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said that "in recent weeks we are prepared for the possibility of Israeli sovereignty being violated as a result of the fighting in Syria. Our intention is not to allow the 1974 agreement to be violated and not to create a risk for the State of Israel."
The head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council told residents that, according to witnesses, parts of the drone fell in the eastern part of the Kinneret. Residents were warned not to approach or touch parts of the intercepted drone.
The firing of the missile triggered rocket alert sirens near the Israel-Syria border at the Golan Heights and in Israeli communities in the Jordan Valley, the military said.
Residents of the northern city of Safed recounted seeing a Patriot missile fly over their heads. "There was a very loud noise, residents came outside, there were some tourists who got scared on the main street," said one woman.
The last time Israel fired a Patriot missile at an unmanned aerial vehicle was in June, when the Israeli military targeted an aerial vehicle that approached from Syria. As a result of the launch, the drone moved away from the border.
Tensions have been high along the northern border in recent weeks.
On Sunday, Syria accused Israel of attacking an air force base near Homs known to be housing Iranian forces. The official Syrian news agency SANA said air defenses were activated as warplanes, reportedly coming into the country from Jordan, approached the T4 base near Tiyas.
Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday while touring the border that Israel will not stand the presence of even one Syrian soldier in the buffer zone on the Israel-Syria border, and will hold the Assad regime responsible for any terror infrastructure in the Syrian Golan Heights.
"This attempt to establish terror infrastructure in the Syrian Golan Heights under the regime's purview is unacceptable to us," Lieberman added. "We will operate with full power against any terrorist infrastructure we identify in the area."
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