Hezbollah claims drone hit

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Hezbollah said it downed an Israeli drone in southern Lebanon in another flare-up raising tensions between the Iran-backed group and Israel.

The drone is in Hezbollah’s possession, the group said in a statement.

The incident happened a week after Hezbollah and Israel exchanged cross-border fire marking their fiercest shelling exchange since the 2006 Lebanon war.

After last week’s clash the group’s leader said Hezbollah would shoot down Israeli drones in Lebanese airspace.

An Israeli military statement said one of its drones “fell inside southern Lebanon during routine operations”. It did not say why the drone crashed, but said “there is no concern information could be taken from it”. An Israeli military spokeswoman said it was a “simple drone” without elaborating.

Hezbollah said its fighters used “appropriate weapons” to bring down the drone outside the Lebanese town Ramyah.

Reporting from the Israel-Lebanon border, a correspondent for Hezbollah’s al-Manar television said the drone did not sustain much damage and was in Lebanese airspace for around five minutes.

SYRIA STRIKES

In a separate statement, the Israeli military said Shi’ite militias operating under the command of Iran’s Quds Force, the overseas arm of Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards, fired rockets at Israel from Syria but they failed to hit Israeli territory.

The military said the rockets were launched near Damascus.

Israel, alarmed by Iran’s growing regional influence via militia allies in countries including Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, carried out strikes in Syria. It wants to stop Iran establishing a permanent military presence and struck advanced weapon shipments to Hezbollah.

Any new war between Israel and Hezbollah would raise the risk of a wider conflict in the Middle East, while Iran is defying US attempts to renegotiate a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

War monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said strikes by unidentified planes in eastern Syria killed pro-Iran fighters and attacked positions and arms depots belonging in Albu Kamal.

Israel raised the stakes when it accused Hezbollah, with Iranian help, of setting up a factory for precision-guided missiles in the Bekaa valley.

Hezbollah denies having production sites in Lebanon, but says it has precision-guided missiles.

DRONE ATTACK

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah blamed Israel for the drone attack and vowed to target Israeli drones entering Lebanon’s airspace.

Lebanon’s government repeatedly complained to the United Nations about Israel, which Beirut considers an enemy country, breaching its airspace.

Nasrallah said while last Sunday’s border clash with Israel was over, the episode started a “new phase” in which the Iran-backed group no longer had red lines it would not cross.

In that brief clash, Hezbollah destroyed an Israeli armoured vehicle, killing and wounding those inside and broadcast what it said was footage of two missiles hitting a moving vehicle.

Israel said it faked soldier casualties to dampen any inclination of escalating hostilities.

Last week’s incidents came after Hezbollah, which back President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s war, said two of its men were killed in an Israeli strike in Syria last month.



Israel said its attack in Syria thwarted an Iran-led drone strike.