Israeli Air Force intercepts Hezbollah drone off coast of Israel
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) intercepted an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) this afternoon. The drone, which Israeli officials say belonged to Hezbollah and took off from Lebanon, was intercepted over the Mediterranean Sea, five nautical miles west of Haifa and at an altitude of 6,000 feet.
A statement released by the IDF on the incident said: "UAVs pose a serious threat to the State of Israel's security. The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to violate Israel's sovereignty or harm its security." Similarly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is prepared to deal with any threat posed by Syria or Lebanon in the air, land, or sea.
In addition, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said that "[b]y way of the Hezbollah, the Iranians are trying us and checking us.... We will respond at the point which we believe to be appropriate, but there will be a response."
Hezbollah has denied that it sent the drone. "Hezbollah denies sending any unmanned drone towards occupied Palestine," a headline on Hezbollah's Al-Manar said this evening. Al-Manar did not provide any additional information. Earlier today, a Hezbollah official told the Associated Press that the Iranian-backed terror group did not have any information on the incident but would release a statement "if it had something" to say.
Today's interception is the second such action by the Israeli Air Force in the past year. On Oct. 6, the IAF shot down a drone, which Hezbollah took responsibility for, near the Yatir Forest in the northern Negev.
When Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, announced that Hezbollah was behind the October drone, he said, "It is our natural right to send other reconnaissance flights inside occupied Palestine.... This is not the first time and will not be the last. We can reach any place we want."
Hezbollah has used drones against Israel on a number of occasions in recent years. During the 2006 war with Hezbollah, the Israeli Air Force shot down a number of Hezbollah drones, and in 2004 an Iranian-made drone spent approximately five minutes in Israeli territory. In April 2005, a Hezbollah drone (Mirsad-1) was sent over Israel. According to a secret cable released by Wikileaks, Syrian intelligence officers may have helped Hezbollah with this launch.
Last April, Yedioth Ahronoth reported that "Hezbollah has been allocating increased resources towards bolstering its drone unit."