image Photo: IDF

Regional effort foils Iran-Gaza UAV transport

The IDF announced that two Iranian UAVs en route to Gaza were successfully intercepted after having been “detected and tracked throughout their flight by ground control units” in “coordination with neighboring countries.”

By Erin Viner

“Throughout the event, control and detection systems monitored the UAVs for some time and in tandem with planning, and control intelligence agencies,” said an IDF statement obtained by TV7.

“The UAVs were intercepted in regional airspace” in cooperation with nearby states “before they could enter Israeli skies” in March 2021.

Dramatic video of the interceptions was released by the Israeli military, showing the tracking and eventual destruction of the enemy drones that were attempting to smuggle weapons into the Islamist Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Marking the first operational interception of drones by an F-35 aircraft in the world, the first UAV was shot down by Israeli Air Force (IAF) Adir fighter jets at approximately 2:16 am and the second at 2:17.

The IDF also released photographs of pistols being transported by the UAVs, as well as the debris of the unmanned aircraft for further intelligence examination.

The IDF claims a 90% interception rate of all UAVs launched toward Israel from Gaza and elsewhere despite challenge in detecting the miniature aircraft.

Previous thwarting of attempted attacks include the downing by an IAF attack helicopter of a drone launched at Israel from Syria in February 2018, and another from Iraq in May 2021. Both were “intercepted at the optimal operational point” in Israel’s Beit She’an Valley area after having been “tracked by ground control units in cooperation with intelligence, planning officials and the operational control headquarters,” said the IDF, which retaliated with a “series of strikes on Iranian UAV infrastructure” aimed at diminishing Tehran’s abilities to develop and launch the drones.

The IDF stressed that it will tirelessly continue “its mission to protect Israeli civilians and combat threats to the State of Israel wherever they are found.”

Such attacks are expected to intensify, said the IDF, amid efforts by Iran’s Air Force, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and its elite Quds Force to step up drone development for reconnaissance and weapons transport hundreds of miles away. Tehran also exports its UAV technology to its terrorist proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.

As proof of “just how far Iranian aggression has reached,” last month Israeli Defense Minster Benny Gantz revealed an image of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro being presented with the Islamic Republic’s advanced Mohajer UAV.

“In addition to developing Iranian UAVs in Venezuela, our assessments show that Iranian precision-guided missiles (PGMs) are being delivered for these UAVs and other similar models,” Israel’s top defense official underscored during an address in Jerusalem to theConference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, stressing that, “With this image in mind, I can tell you that in my meetings with partners from around the world, including African and Latin American partners – I heard extreme concern about Iranian support for terrorism. Iran truly is a global and regional challenge and not just a threat to the State of Israel.”

The latest report on attempted Iranian drone activity come ahead of the expected signing of a revived Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal with world power in Vienna.

Israel has long opposed the JCPOA as too weak to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, impede its missile program and terrorist activities in the Mideast.

Former United States Republican President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, citing evidence of covert Iranian nuclear and ballistic missile development, in addition to malign regional behavior and support of proxy warfare. The Ayatollah regime responded by openly violating critical nuclear limits, including to uranium enrichment to 60%.

In remarks following IDF disclosure of the March 2021 UAV attack, Israeli Defense Minister Gantz demanded that “The world must mobilize to stop Iranian aggression” which “is currently conducted without a ‘nuclear canopy.’”

“Whether or not an agreement will be signed – it will not be the end of the road for us – nor should it be for the countries of the region and the world, which must continue to act against Iranian aggression,” the top Israeli defense official wrote in a post on his social media platforms in which he detailed a series of Iranian activities that he exposed over the past year.

“The State of Israel and its defense establishment will take all the measures necessary – political, economic and if needed, also military, in order to defend our sovereignty and ensure the security of the citizens Israel,” vowed Defense Minister Gantz.

Full text of Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz’ social media message:

“Today, we must reiterate the warning that Iranian aggression, whether it emanates from Iranian territory or through Iranian proxies –  is a threat to global peace and to regional stability, as well as a threat to the State of Israel.

Over the past year, I have revealed the names of those behind the ‘Mercer Street’ attack – Commander of the IRGC’s Air Force, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh and Head of the IRGC’s UAV Command, Saeed Ara Jani.

At a later date, I also revealed the base where Iran trains its proxies in ‘Kashan’. I also exposed the fact that missiles are launched from bases located in the Chabahar and Qeshem regions of Iran.

In a discussion held with think tank leaders during my recent visit to Washington, I presented attempts to develop capabilities in bases located in western Iran, from where attacks could be conducted on Israel.

Just about two weeks ago, at a meeting of the ‘Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations’ held in Jerusalem, I revealed that Iran exports advanced UAVs and weapons not only to its proxies in the Middle East, but also to countries in Central America, such as Venezuela.

I also revealed this year that in 2018, Iran launched a UAV laden with TNT explosives from Syria, in what appeared to be an attempt to transfer ammunition to terror groups in Judea and Samaria.

Yesterday, we revealed and highlighted just how much this trend was developing- Israel, in coordination with its partners in the region, intercepted an attempt to transfer UAVs carrying weapons from Iran to Gaza, using aircraft.

The IDF and Israeli defense establishment will continue to act decisively in the face of Iranian aggression and terrorism. We will thwart any attempted attack and charge a painful price from Iran.

It is during this important time, when a nuclear agreement is being negotiated in Vienna, that we must remember: today Iranian aggression is conducted without a ‘nuclear canopy’. If Iran reaches a nuclear threshold, it will become even more dangerous to world peace. Now is the time for the world to mobilize to stop it. As I have said in the past, the State of Israel will take all the measures necessary to prevent Iran from becoming an existential threat.

Whether or not an agreement will be signed, it will not be the end of the road for us – nor should it be for the countries of the region and the world, which must continue to act against Iranian aggression.  The State of Israel and the defense establishment within it will take all the measures necessary – political, economic and if needed, also military, in order to defend our sovereignty and ensure the security of the citizens Israel.”