Israel shot down a Hamas drone over the southern coastal city of Ashdod Monday, day seven of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza, the Associated Press reports. The unmanned flying device is the first of its kind to be used by Hamas over Israeli airspace.
The use of the unmanned drone marked a new and unexpected tactic by Hamas, which has never before acknowledged having such weapons. Although it was quickly shot down, the drone represented a new level of sophistication for the militant group. In the past, Hezbollah militants in Lebanon have sent at least one drone into Israel that also was shot down.
The Israeli military said the drone was shot down in mid-flight by a Patriot surface-to-air missile along the southern Israeli coastline, near the city of Ashdod.
Israel officials said they were aware that Hamas had drones, and in fact had targeted drone facilities in Gaza in the past. Still, it’s a notable escalation in weaponry, with potential consequences—one of the targets of three drones Hamas claimed to have launched Monday was an IDF command center in Tel Aviv.
According to the Washington Post, Hamas released a video of an airborne drone with “four small rockets or missiles under its wings.” It was unclear whether the footage was from one of the drones launched today.
Still, as Hamas steps up its attacks on Israel—even as retaliatory Israeli airstrikes pummel Gaza and the Palestinian death count passes 170—a senior IDF officer says the militant group may be closer to agreeing to a cease-fire agreement, Haaretz reports.
A senior IDF officer said Monday that Hamas appears increasingly ready for a cease-fire. “We are seeing more and more that Hamas is ripe for a cease-fire,” he said. “We are in a kind of money time, since they (Hamas) want to return with an accomplishment, and the UAV is also a kind of accomplishment.” The officer added that he believes there is a high likelihood that both Hamas and Islamic Jihad “will want to shut this business down,” as he put it — and end the military operation.