Israel shoots down Hamas drone from Gaza Strip: military

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli fighter jet on Thursday shot down a drone belonging to the Islamist group Hamas that had taken off from the Gaza Strip, the military said.

The interception prevented “an immediate threat of infiltration” into Israeli airspace and the drone fell into the Mediterranean sea, the military’s statement said.

No Hamas comment was immediately available.

In December, Hamas, which controls Gaza, blamed Israel for killing one of its drone experts in Tunisia. Israel had no official comment.

Israel has in the past voiced concern that armed groups in Gaza and Lebanon would use drones carrying explosives inside its borders in a future war. Hamas and other Islamist militias have fired thousands of rockets at militarily superior Israel in previous conflicts but have made scant use of drones.

The last Israeli interception of a drone that took off from Gaza was in September. During the 2014 Gaza war, a U.S.-supplied Israeli Patriot missile destroyed an unmanned Hamas aircraft over the southern Israeli port city of Ashdod.

Israel is itself a world leader in drone technologies and has used the vehicles extensively in combat.

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Jeffrey Heller, Larry King