Illustration: Small pilotless drone
Illustration: Small pilotless droneReuters

Palestinian Authority security services in have arrested three students in Judea accused of plotting to build a "drone" with which to attack Israel, a source said Friday.

The three Hebron University engineering students had intended to build a small pilotless aircraft equipped with explosives, according to a PA security source.    

But before they could carry out the attack, they were arrested by the security services of the Palestinian Authority, the source said without giving any more details.    

Hamas, the Islamist movement which rules the Gaza Strip, issued a statement denouncing "this new proof of security cooperation between the occupation (Israel) and the services of the Palestinian Authority."    

It also criticized the Palestinian Authority for "hindering all the efforts of the resistance and protecting the security of the occupation."  

The movement did not say, however, if it had been involved in the alleged plot.     

Following the violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas after the 2005 Israeli withdrawal, which saw the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority routed by Hamas fighters, the PA has cracked down severely on the organization and other rival terrorist groups in the territory it still controls in Judea and Samaria. Terrorist attacks by non-Fatah-affiliated groups are often viewed as not only an attack against Israel, but an act of dissent against the authority of PA security forces.

This is not the first time terrorists have used or attempted to use unmanned drones to either attack or spy on Israeli positions.

On April 25, Israel shot down a drone from Lebanon off its northern coast, in the second such incident in seven months, which it blamed on the Lebanese Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah.

Unmanned drones come in many shapes, sizes and levels of sophistication; ranging from larger, advanced models tens of meters long, to smaller less sophisticated and mor easily-constructed versions the size of a model airplane.