Israel’s air force scrambled fighters on 14 December afterHamas militants launched an unmanned air vehicle to fly over a parade in Gaza marking the 27th anniversary of the organisation's establishment.
Israel was concerned the UAV might be sent into Israeli airspace, either to conduct an attack or to perform reconnaissance. However, the UAV was not shot down as it did not veer towards Israeli territory.
Israeli sources subsequently identified the aircraft involved in the parade as an Iranian-made Ababil. Capable of carrying a40kg (88lb) payload – potentially including an explosive charge – the typehas a maximum operational radius of 81nm (150km) and a service ceiling of 14,000ft.
During Israel's Protective Edge campaign in the Gaza Strip earlier this year, three UAVs operated by Hamas from Gaza and a Syrian-deployed system were shot down on trying to infiltrate Israeli airspace.The aircraft were destroyed using air-to-air missiles launched from Lockheed Martin F-16s and by Raytheon Patriot surface-to-air missiles.
Sources suggest Iran is the only supplier of unmanned systems for use by Hamas. In recent weeks, Israel has also identified attempts by the organisation to operate quadcopter air vehicles near the border.
Yiftah Shapir, senior research fellow and head of the Middle East Military Balance Project at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, says unconfirmed information suggests Hamas is operating an "assembly line" of Iranian-made UAVs in Gaza. However, he notes that there is no indication about the autonomous capabilities of the Ababil – a key factor in considering the level of threat the type poses.