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Jerusalem: Israel on Sunday vowed a strong response after its fighter jets shot down an unidentified drone that violated its airspace, possibly for gathering intelligence.
Israel`s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended the army for successfully downing the unarmed and unmanned aerial vehicle without any casualty.
"We will continue to defend our borders by sea, land and air to guarantee the security of our citizens," Netanyahu said.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak praised the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) for their "quick and effective interception", adding that the UAV was intercepted by F-16I fighter jets yesterday in the south of Hebron.
"We take a severe view of the attempt to violate Israeli airspace and we will consider our response," Barak said.
The Israeli army did not accuse anyone for the flagrant violation of its airspace but security officials seemed to be of the opinion that Lebanese Shi`ite faction Hezbollah may have once again been behind the move.
The Israeli army intercepted an unarmed drone operated by the Hezbollah movement in 2006 over the Jewish state`s territorial waters.
"An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was identified penetrating Israeli airspace and was intercepted by the IAF at approximately 10:00 am local time on Saturday (yesterday)," an army spokesperson said.
Defence analysts here said that the IDF waited for almost 15 minutes for operational reasons before downing the drone at a safe location where it could also collect the debris to identify those behind the attempt.
Troops responsible for monitoring airspace violations "acted as they should have done after spotting the drone following its intrusion into Israeli airspace," the Army Radio quoted a security official as saying.
"This drone was spotted over the Mediterranean in a sector near the Gaza Strip before entering Israeli airspace, where the air force followed it", army spokesperson Avital Leibovich said.
"It was followed from the beginning until the time it was decided to intercept it and shoot it down for operational reasons over the Yatir Forest in the northern Negev, an uninhabited region," she added terming the operation a "success".
The drone entered Israeli airspace via the Gaza Strip, but the army rubbished Palestinian reports claiming it had taken off there.
The most likely route involved a takeoff somewhere in Lebanon and a flight out over the Mediterranean Sea before a bank south toward Israel, security sources said.
The possibility of other possible routes were also not ruled out by them.