As it braced for more rocket attacks, Israel's military says it intercepted a Palestinian drone on Monday. According to media reports, this is the first time that a drone flying from Gaza has entered Israeli air space. And according to the Israelis, the drone did not last long at all.
"It was shot to smithereens," said Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner. "We had it in our sights the moment it took off, and we chose where to intercept it". Evidently, the wreckage from the drone fell safely into the Mediterranean. The escalation is just the latest unfortunate turn of events in the week-long conflict between Israel and Palestine that flared up after the murder of three Israeli youths followed by the revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager earlier this month. It also marks the most violent flare up between Israel and Palestine since 2012.
The drone incident itself, however, marks a new era of autonomous warfare for the region. While this is the first Palestinian drone to be shot down, Hamas says that it's built and deployed an entire arsenal of armed drones to fly "special missions" within Israel. (It's unclear if the downed drone was armed.) This means that drone technology is no longer the secret weapons of the world's largest armies but also a tool for guerrilla warfare as well. The Palestinians' new capability also lends credence to the growing number of reports of drone development in countries like Iran and North Korea. In the past, Israel has also intercepted at least two drones from Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Now, the United States and the European Union are working hard to barter a ceasefire between Israel and Palestine. It'll inevitably take time to seek justice for the deaths of youths on both sides, and Hamas is also calling for an end to Israel's Gaza blockade. And it sounds like Hamas is ready to deploy more drones to make that happen. [WSJ, NYT, Reuters]
Image via AP
Update: As one commenter pointed out, it looks like the drones Hamas is currently flying are very much armed:
The above video was posted and blasted across social media not long after the reports that emerged that Israel had downed a Palestinian drone. It was unclear at the time whether the downed drone was carrying missiles, but Hamas clearly wants the world to know that it has missiles for what it describes as a "homemade unmanned drone". The drone itself appears to be an Ababil A1B, which are made in Iran. Hamas claims that the aircraft has flown three missions over Israeli military bases and one over the Israeli war ministry. However, none of those missions resulted in the deployment of air-to-surface missiles from the drone.