Hostile UAV threat alarms Israel

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Hezbollah's surprise flight of Iranian-supplied vehicle across border is rude awakening for air force

The Israeli air force is to redeploy sophisticated sensors along the Israeli-Lebanon border following the surprise violation of its airspace by a Hezbollah-operated unmanned air vehicle on 7 November.

The small UAV crossed the border and flew over the town of Nahariyya and some other populated areas in northern Israel for around 5min.

The Israeli military reports the UAV - which it believes was an Iranian-supplied Ababil system - then crashed into the Mediterranean Sea. Hezbollah claims the UAV was able to transmit images of Israeli territory to a ground control station during the brief incursion.

Hezbollah has for some years sought to obtain a UAV capability to cross Israel's heavily sealed border, and while Israeli anti-terror experts say last week's launch posed no real threat, concerns exist that the organisation could in the future attempt to use such a system as a flying bomb.

Israeli sources allege that Hezbollah was assisted by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps during the recent incursion, and that its "Mirsad 1" UAVis a version of the HESA-developed Ababil, which has a 3.5m (11.5ft) wingspan and a maximum take-off weight of around 80kg (176lb).

The Israeli air force began to plan its redeployment along the border immediately after the incident. While no details have been released, sources indicate the measures may include the use of sensors with the capability to detect small, low-flying objects. It is also expected to field the Machbet hybrid air-defence system developed by Israel Aircraft Industries' MBT division which combines a Vulcan 20mm gun and a launcher for four Stinger surface-to-air missiles and has an effective range of between 500m and 8km.

ARIE EGOZI / TEL AVIV