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JERUSALEM – The unidentified aerial vehicle that was downed yesterday after penetrating Israel’s airspace was the suspected work of a combined operation of two Iranian-backed groups – Hezbollah and the Islamic Jihad – according to Middle East security officials.

The security officials said they believe the purpose of flying the drone into Israel was twofold: To collect aerial reconnaissance photos and video intelligence; and as a test to see how deep an unmanned drone can penetrate Israel before being detected by the Israeli army.

There is fear that in the future such drones can be laden with a large amount of explosives for use in precision attacks against military or civilian targets, possibly even including large buildings.

In the case of yesterday’s attempt, the drone reportedly flew at least 15 minutes – a full 35 miles – in Israeli airspace before being shot down by the Israel Air Force. It entered Israel from over the Mediterranean Sea to the West and briefly flew over the Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces has maintained that it was tracking the drone throughout the course of its flight, coordinating with both aerial and ground forces. Fighter jets were dispatched from the Ramon air force base in the Negev; the jets eventually shot down the drone over an unpopulated forest area.

IDF Spokesperson Yoav Mordechai stated, “The aircraft was identified before entering Israeli airspace and was under constant tracking.”

The IDF is reportedly examining the drone.

Questions have been raised by the Israeli media as to why the drone was not shot down before it flew into Israeli airspace for more than 30 miles over civilian zones in the southern Israeli Negev desert.

Some have speculated the IAF wanted to wait until the drone flew over Israel, as opposed to the Gaza Strip or the sea, so the wreckage could be extracted and that the drone was downed at the first opportunity after it entered a largely unpopulated zone. Others have claimed the AIF was not tracking the drone throughout its flight.

Hezbollah has in the past launched several drones into Israel, usually from along the northern border with Lebanon. During the 2006 war, multiple Hezbollah drones were downed.

In May 2006, WND quoted a senior member of Hamas’ so-called military wing stating the Gazan terrorist group was seeking the ability to attack Israel using small airplanes laden with explosives to be flown 9-11-style into important targets, possibly Tel Aviv skyscrapers.

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