Shrapnel from Patriot missile
On June 16, the IDF announced the start of a three-day military exercise the following day.
As it began after 17:00pm on June 17, an unidentified UMV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) crossed in from Syria and flew over the Israeli Golan and Upper Galilee for nearly an hour. The small craft had every opportunity to photograph and collect intelligence information on most of the IDF units taking part in the drill and their intelligence resources and beam them back to its operators in Syria.
The IDF hastened to state that the aircraft had been locked into Air Force surveillance all this time and was targeted by three missiles, two Patriot anti-air projectiles and an air-to-air missile of undisclosed type.
They all missed.
This is not surprising: using such missiles to down a UMV is like directing a heavy missile destroyer to swat a small shark. Its chances of hitting a tiny target are close to zero.
debkafile’s military sources say that the use of missiles seems to indicate that someone in the IDF chain of command decided, after losing hope of hitting the intruder, to produce a big bang to frighten it off.
It has to be assumed that the Russian radar systems deployed in Syria spotted and tracked the episode. The Russians must have taken note of the UMV crossing from Syria into Israeli air space and the length of time it was free to linger over the Upper Galilee. They were certainly aware that three Israeli missiles failed to hit their target.
As far as we know, none of the Russian-Israeli coordination mechanisms in place for coordinating their aerial activity over Syria was activated. The Russian command did not warn Israel that an alien UMV was on course to cross its border or offer to help capture it once it returned to Syria.
In other words, the Russians must have known what was going on, as well as the identity of the drone, but kept quiet and let it happen.
This raises the possibility that the UMV was Russian.
This likelihood must be taken into account in the light of another event: just two days earlier, a covert agreement on aerial cooperation between the US and Russia in the Syrian arena was concluded in Moscow by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
debkafile’s intelligence sources analysis commented then: “Direct intelligence cooperation in Syria between the two powers will make the Israeli intelligence system in Syria redundant and weaken its sources and standing.” The UMV episode Sunday demonstrates that the Moscow deal has gone into effect. It is now up to Israel’s military chiefs to take the new reality on board and start adapting.