Two Iranian drones shot down over Iraq by US fighter jets were en-route to targets in Israel, according to a report yesterday by Haaretz.
Israeli defence officials claim that the Shahed-136s were intercepted by the international coalition near Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq on 14 February.
The incident raised security concerns for Israel, which was already on high alert having allegedly carried out an attack involving six drones against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Mahidasht airbase in the western province of Kermanshah, destroying “hundreds” of Iranian drones. Tehran blamed the attack on Israel about a month later, although Tel Aviv has not commented on the strike, in line with its long-standing policy.The incident was reported for the first time last week by Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen newspaper and, according to Iranian officials, prompted the missile attack carried out by the IRGC in Erbil on March 13, targeting an alleged Mossad spy base, a claim which has been denied by the government in Kurdistan. Earlier reports stated the Erbil attacks were in response to an Israeli airstrike which killed two IRGC members in Syria.
The day after the Erbil strikes, Tehran’s ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi, warned of further Iranian attacks against “Israeli strategic centres” in Erbil, while the IRGC also vowed a “harsh, decisive and destructive response” in the face of continued Israeli activities against Iran.
The drone and cyber war between Israel and Iran has escalated in recent months as world powers seek to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the 2015 nuclear deal, which the US unilaterally withdrew from in 2018. Israel opposes the talks and fears Iran is working towards developing nuclear weapons, an accusation Tehran denies.