However Israeli official spokesmen present the incident of Saturday, Oct. 6, the penetration of Israeli air space by a large unmanned helicopter should not have been allowed to happen. The surprise interloper should have been shot down before spending nearly half an hour over southern Israel. The incident showed ID intelligence and command not up to handling enemy surprises, even after countless drills and exercises.
Four months ago, on July 20, Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech, “The resistance movement will surprise Tel Aviv in any future war.”
Hizballah with Iranian backing almost certainly proved its point Saturday, very likely in collaboration with its Palestinian ally, Hamas.
Our intelligence experts note that before the Israeli Air Force fighters scrambled to shoot it down, the intruder would have had enough time for its surveillance equipment to beam to its Iranian control station, wherever it was, the electronic signatures of US and Israeli military installations within its purview in the South and the Negev.
This was a major lapse.
The alien aircraft should have been intercepted the moment it flew in from the Mediterranean and entered the skies of the Gaza Strip. By then, it was clearly seen heading toward Beersheba. Had there been weapons aboard, the incident would have ended in a worse disaster, reminding Israel of its worst nightmare: an Iranian plane flying over with a nuclear bomb.
As it is, the sophisticated aerial surveillance vehicle was able to cover the space over the IDF’s southern facilities, the town of Beersheba and the Israeli Air Force base at Nevatim before it was shot down over the Yatir forest south of Mt. Hebron. Its primary missions may have been to record the electronic signatures of the Dimona nuclear reactor’s air defense systems and the American X-band radar station in the Negev, which is linked to the US X-band station in Turkey. Together, they are the “forward eyes” of the joint US-Israeli shield against Iranian ballistic missile attack.
If the intruder came to spot the gaps in that shield, it would have succeeded.
It is therefore important in this context to recall a more recent and explicit threat, this one by Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s ground forces, who said on Sept. 23 that his country was not waiting to be attacked but ready to carry out preemptive operations against the US and Israel.
The aerial overflight Saturday may well have been a preparatory step for such an attack.
Tehran would also have noted the time lapse before Israel acted: The IDF asked the Defense Minister Ehud Barak what to do instead of acting at once and Barak passed the buck to the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.
They decided initially to down helicopter by electronic means and capture it intact in an attempt to establish who sent it and study its systems. However, the Iranian controllers fought back – hence the cyber battle rocking back and forth over southern Israel for nearly half an hour – before shooting it down.
The image the IDF spokesman put out of a ball of fire in the sky was misleading. On its way down to earth, the vehicle broke up into fragments large enough to offer up important secrets to Israel’s military researchers.
On Saturday, Israel’s electronic warfare systems were fully operational and effective. However, Israel’s leaders were struck dumb and caught unawares by Iran’s audacity in springing on them an overt act of belligerence against their own and American military installations housed in the Negev. Israel officials have vowed to respond to an obvious act of war.