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Monday, August 07, 2006

IAF shoots down Hezbullah UAV off Israeli coast

The IAF shot down an unmanned Hezbullah aircraft off the coast of Akko (Acre) tonight. The UAV may have been packed with explosives. It was shot down as soon as it left Lebanese territory and it was being tracked even before then.

There are some discrepancies in the reporting among the three big web sites. YNet reports that the drone 'may' have been packed with explosives. YNet notes:
The last report of a Hizbullah drone flying over Israel was received on the eve of the Ariel Sharon – George W. Bush White House summit in April 2005.

Hizbullah members said at the time that the drone took photographs of 18 communities in northern Israel, including the coastal cities of Nahariya and Akko.

During a similar occurrence in November 2004, a drone exploded before returning to base.

At the time, Hizbullah spokesmen said the raid was in retaliation for “enemy violations” of Lebanese airspace.
HaAretz reports that the IAF did not comment on whether the plane was carrying weapons, but Brigadier General Yohanan Locker said that to the best of his knowledge the drone was not armed, but was intended mainly for show. HaAretz also notes:

In November 2004, Hezbollah sent its first ever drone, named "Mirsad 1" over Israel, circling for some 20 minutes while filming. In April 2005, a "Mirsad 2" crossed the border. In neither case the IDF succeeded in intercepting the plane.

Since the beginning of the war, military sources indicated a high probability that Hezbollah would try to send a drone into Israel.

Military sources suspected that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was referring to drones when he spoke of "surprises" he had in store for Israel.

Nasrallah has said that a single drone is capable of carrying 45 kilograms of explosives.

The sources said the drones are manufactured in Iran and supplied by the Iranian government, as were the surface-to-sea missiles used to strike an Israeli navy ship three weeks ago.
But the Jerusalem Post has a slightly different take on this story:
F-16 fighter jets from the IAF's 110 squadron shot down a Hizbullah Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Monday night 10 kilometers off the coast of Acre. A high-ranking IAF officer said that it was possible that the UAV was loaded with explosives and was on its way to crash into a sensitive installation in northern Israel.

The officer said that the IAF did not spot the UAV at takeoff but did discover it flying over Lebanon. The decision to shoot it down however came after the UAV had reached a 10-km point off the coast of Acre. F-16 jets were scrambled to the air and shot down the aircraft. Navy ships collected the remains of the aircraft found floating in the Mediterranean.


The officer said that Hizbullah had more UAVs which he estimated were controlled by Global Positioning Systems (GPS). The UAV, he said, flew at a low altitude and at approximately 150 kph. The Air Force believes that the drone was the same model used by the Hizbullah two years ago and was a Mirsad 1, a small remote- controlled drone with one engine and a small camera. Made by Iran, it weighs about 80 kilos and with a wingspan of 3 meters it could carry a payload of about 40 kilos.


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