JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military said it shot down an unmanned aircraft on Saturday that tried to infiltrate its airspace from neighboring Syria.
In a statement, the military said it intercepted the drone above the Golan Heights using a Patriot missile. The military said the drone was operated by the Syrian regime and was shot down in the demilitarized zone between the countries.
In September, Israel shot down an Iranian-made drone sent by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah in the same area. Both Iranian and Hezbollah forces have been backing Syrian President Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war.
Israel has warned that it will not accept a permanent presence of Iran or its allied militias near its border in postwar Syria. Israel says that it expects any agreement ending the war in Syria to include a 20-kilometer (12-mile) buffer zone meant to keep away Iranian-backed militants. Israel has been closely watching Iran's involvement in the war in neighboring Syria. It fears Iran could use Syrian territory to stage attacks on Israel, or create a land corridor from Iran to Lebanon that could allow it to transfer weapons more easily to Hezbollah.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel viewed Saturday's drone incident gravely and would respond to any provocation.
"We hold the Syrian regime responsible for any firing or breach of sovereignty and call on it to hold back all players active in its territory," Lieberman said in a statement. "We will not allow the Shiite axis to establish a front command center in Syria."
Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting in Syria. But it has carried out dozens of airstrikes on alleged arms shipments bound for Hezbollah. It fears the group will gain sophisticated weapons and smuggle them from Syria into Lebanon.