Israel says Iranian drone it shot down in February was carrying explosives

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel said on Friday an Iranian drone it shot down over Israeli territory in February was armed with explosives and was meant to carry out an attack.

The Israeli military said that after analyzing the flight path and investigating the drone, it “concluded that the Iranian UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) was armed with explosives and was tasked to attack Israel.”

By intercepting the drone, the military said, the “combat helicopters prevented the attack Iran had hoped to carry out in Israel.”

“The UAV was identified and tracked by Israeli defense systems until its destruction, effectively eliminating any threat the Iranian UAV posed,” it said.

The drone was downed on Feb. 10 by an Israeli Apache helicopter over the northern town of Beit Shean. It had been sighted taking off from a base in Syria and was intercepted after it crossed into Israeli territory, the Israeli military said.

Iran at the time rejected as “ridiculous” the report that one of its drones had been intercepted.

Israeli planes then struck an Iranian installation in Syria from which, the Israeli military said, the unmanned aircraft had been operated.

An F-16, one of at least eight Israeli planes that had been despatched, was hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile and crashed in northern Israel.

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Raissa Kasolowsky