Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

Hezbollah says it shot down Israeli drone over Lebanon

A Hezbollah minister said earlier that new strikes against Israel are coming

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah walked back his vow to shoot down Israeli drones, which continue to hover over Lebanon. AFP
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah walked back his vow to shoot down Israeli drones, which continue to hover over Lebanon. AFP

Lebanon's Hezbollah says it shot down an unmanned Israeli aircraft outside the southern town of Ramyah on Monday.

The Israeli drone is now in the hands of Hezbollah's fighters, the Iran-backed group said .

Fighters from the Lebanese Shiite movement "confronted, with necessary weapons, an Israeli drone" as it entered southern Lebanon, a statement said.

The Israeli military said one of its drones "fell inside southern Lebanon during routine operations". In a statement, it did not say what caused the crash and noted "there is no concern information could be taken from it".

A correspondent for Hezbollah's Al Manar television reporting from the border said the drone had not sustained much damage, and had been in Lebanese airspace for around five minutes.

The incident follows an escalation in tension between the two which included an exchange of fire on Sunday, September 1.

Hezbollah said it had fired anti-tank missiles into Israel, destroying a military vehicle and killing or wounding those inside.

Israel's army said it had responded with about 100 artillery shells after Hezbollah targeted a battalion headquarters and military ambulance, hitting both. Israeli officials denied claims of casualties.

Hezbollah and the Israeli army exchanged cross-border fire a week ago after a drone attack in a Hezbollah-controlled Beirut suburb in one of the fiercest shelling exchange between the two adversaries since the 2006 Lebanon war.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah had blamed Israel for the drone attack and vowed the group would target Israeli drones that enter Lebanon’s airspace.

Nasrallah said while a flare-up with Israel at the border was over, the episode had launched a “new phase” in which the Iran-backed group no longer had red lines.

Israel had also raised the stakes by accusing Iran of stepping up efforts to provide Hezbollah with precision-guided missile production facilities. Hezbollah denied this.

Hezbollah said it destroyed an Israeli armoured vehicle during the exchange of fire last week, killing and wounding those inside, and it broadcast what it said was footage of two missiles hitting a moving vehicle.

Israel said it had faked soldier injuries to dampen any inclination of Hezbollah to escalate hostilities.

Nasrallah said their attack had marked the first such Hezbollah operation in a long time targeting Israel in positions across the border, not in the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms.

The latest tension came after Hezbollah, whose forces have fought in support of President Bashar Al Assad in Syria’s war, said two of its men were killed in an Israeli strike in Syria late last month.

Israel said its attack in Syria thwarted an Iranian-led drone strike against it.

Any new war between Israel and Hezbollah would raise the risk of a wider conflict in the Middle East, where Iran has defied the United States' attempts to force it to renegotiate a 2015 nuclear deal it reached with world powers.

At the same time, Israel is alarmed by Iran's growing influence in the region through militia allies such as Hezbollah in countries such as Syria.

Hezbollah Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mahmoud Qomati said on Sunday that new strikes against Israel are coming, although it was believed that tension had simmered down.

Hezbollah, considered a terrorist organisation by Israel and the United States, is a major political actor in Lebanon and a key government backer in war-torn Syria.

Updated: September 9, 2019 12:16 PM

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