Russia has owned up to operating a stray drone seen flying over Israel three weeks ago, which prompted a military response from the Israeli Air Force at the time.

The unmanned aerial vehicle, which was at first thought to belong to Iranian proxy Hezbollah, passed over northern Israel “mistakenly” on 17 July, according to Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper.

There were red faces at the time, as Israel fired two Patriot surface-to-air missiles at it, but missed. An Israeli F-16 fighter jet was then scrambled and fired an air-to-air missile at it – but also missed, before the UAV disappeared back into Syria.

According to reports, the Russian military now says “human error” caused the drone to stray into Israeli territory over the Golan Heights, but defence analysts say it may in fact have been the Russians testing Israel’s defensive capabilities.

Although Israel and Russia have established good communications with each other over Moscow’s military intervention in Syria, this is the first time Israel has shot at Russian aircraft since the latter became involved in the conflict in September last year.