The drone entered Israeli territory from Gaza “several days ago”, said an IDF statement. (Photo: IDF Spokesman unit)

A worrying new development from southern Israel, as the Israel Defense Forces revealed on Sunday that a long-range drone sent from the Gaza Strip last week was discovered in Israeli territory.

After infiltrating Israeli airspace, the drone was shot down by the IDF near the northern region of the Gaza border. An examination of the device revealed that it was carrying a significant cache of explosive materials, and apparently was intended to detonate upon landing.

The drone was found in the Sha’ar Negev Region Council adjacent to the Gaza border, said the army.

The event marks a disturbing escalation for Israel. Over the last two months, over 260 aerial attacks from Gaza have taken place, resulting in around 250,000 sq. meters of burned fields, orchards, forests and farmland. All of these attacks have been the result of unguided, crude kite-bomb attacks.

The advance to drone technology to carry out arson attacks could enable precision strikes. In addition, while kite-bombs’ movements are somewhat predictable as the kites tend to drift in the wind, drones are extremely maneuverable, can reach higher altitudes and so it will be much harder to track them mid-air and be ready to quickly extinguish any fires they may spark.

An IDF statement declined to provide specifics about the type of explosives found or when exactly the UAV was discovered, saying only that “After an inspection, explosives were found on the drone”.

An investigation into the incident was opened. This is not the first time that a hostile drone has entered Israeli territory, with Iran testing Israel’s air defenses in February with a similar tactic. That drone was carefully traced by an Israeli helicopter and shot down by Israel after being allowed to fly in Israel for a few minutes. It was later discovered to have been carrying explosives. More recently, a miniature drone was sent from Gaza into Israel, although on that occasion it is thought that drone was intended to be used for observation, rather than attack targets in Israel. The incident led Israel to ban the use of drones in Judea and Samaria.

Israel recently debuted its first private policing drone in Efrat, in the Judea region, to serve as a real-time pinpoint emergency tool to help prevent infiltration attempts into Jewish communities by Arab terrorists. With more drones due to be sent to protect Jewish communities adjacent to Gaza, they may be critical in curbing the rising aerial threat from Hamas.