Syrian authorities say they captured and dismantled Saturday a drone rigged with cluster bombs near the Israeli border.
By Associated Press
Syrian state news agency SANA announced on Saturday authorities had sequestered an unmanned aerial vehicle equipped with explosives, posting several photos of the drone without additional details.
Israel frequently conducts airstrikes and missile attacks inside war-torn Syria but rarely confirms them. Israel says it targets mostly bases of Iranian forces and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah in Syria.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said it was not clear if Syrian troops or Hezbollah had downed the drone. Hezbollah has members in different parts of Syria where they are fighting on the side of President Bashar Assad’s forces.
On Saturday evening, the IDF denied Syrian allegations regarding the drone, saying it is in fact an Iranian aircraft, reported Times of Israel.
“Today we saw the Syrians prove that [Iranian commander Gen. Qassem] Soleimani does whatever he wants in Syria and doesn’t tell Assad’s [Syrian] regime what he is doing,” said the IDF’s Arabic spokesman Avichai Adraee, according to the Times
The incident came two days after another drone was destroyed over Aqraba, a suburb of the capital, Damascus. That’s the same suburb where an Israeli airstrike killed two Hezbollah operatives last month.
No one claimed responsibility either of the drones.
In neighboring Lebanon, a government investigation had concluded Thursday that two Israeli drones were on an attack mission when they crashed in the capital last month, one of them armed with 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) of explosives.
Meanwhile in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday expressed frustration with what he said was the United States’ continued support for Syrian Kurdish militants.
Speaking to reporters before his departure for upcoming United Nations meetings in New York, Erdogan reiterated that Turkey had completed all preparations for a possible unilateral military operation in northeast Syria, along the Turkish border east of the Euphrates River.
Last month, Turkey and the United States agreed to take steps toward establishing a so-called “safe zone” in the area that would keep U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces away from Turkey’s border. Turkey has, however, warned that it will not allow the U.S. to delay the establishment of the safe zone and has threatened to launch an operation on its own within two weeks.
Ankara considers the Syrian Kurdish fighters — who battled the Islamic State group alongside U.S. forces — to be “terrorists” due to their links to Kurdish rebels in Turkey.
“We have no wish of confronting the United States,” Erdogan said. “However, we don’t have the luxury of ignoring the support that the United States is giving terrorist organizations in an area where it was not invited to be.”
Erdogan said he would discuss the issue during a possible meeting with President Donald Trump in New York.
Turkey conducted two operations into northern Syria in 2016 and 2018 to clear the areas of IS extremists and U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militias.