The Israeli air force shot down an unidentified drone on Saturday morning, around 10:00 am after it entered the country’s airspace from the Mediterranean Sea, an army spokesman and army radio reported.
According to AFP, soldiers are currently searching the area where the drone was downed, in open areas in the northern Negev, to locate and identify it, the spokesman added.
IDF Spokesperson Yoav Mordechai said that the aircraft was monitored and accompanied by fighter planes throughout its flight and that it was possible to shoot it down at any stage, “however, it was decided to intercept the aircraft near southern Mount Hevron for safety reasons.”
Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich said IsraeliÂ systems on the ground alerted the air force to the drone during the morning.
She said it flew over the Gaza Strip but didÂ not originate from the Palestinian territory, sparking the country to launch anÂ investigation into the drone’s starting point.
Leibovich did not give more details, butÂ Israel media reported that it might have been an intelligence gathering drone,Â which was not carrying explosives.
She added that the Israeli air force was inÂ control throughout.
She said: ‘We had monitoring contact from theÂ ground and from the air.
‘We alerted jet planes that escortedÂ theÂ unmanned aerial vehicle and due to some operational considerationsÂ we decidedÂ to intercept the unmanned aerial vehicle in the northernÂ Negev area, which hasÂ no population.’
It’s not the first time that Israel has shotÂ down drones entering its airspace.
The Iran-backed Lebanese militia HezbollahÂ has launched several into Israel over the past few years.
In the 2006 war, Hezbollah launched anÂ Iranian-made drone capable of carrying explosives into Israel that was shotÂ down.
Another one launched two years earlierÂ crashed in the Mediterranean.
Israel and Iran are bitter enemies andÂ tensions are high over Tehran’s nuclear program, which the West believes isÂ intended for atomic weapons.
Tehran insists its atomic program is forÂ peaceful purposes only.
Israel has hinted that military action shouldÂ be taken to prevent Iran from getting nuclear bombs.
Leibovich would not elaborate how theÂ unmanned vehicle was brought down. She said troops were searching for debrisÂ from the drone.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak congratulated theÂ military.
‘We view this incident of attempting to enterÂ Israeli airspace very severely and we will consider our response later,’ he saidÂ in a statement.