Israel now reportedly believes that the drone the Israeli Air Force (IAF) intercepted on Thursday afternoon was sent by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Lebanon. The drone is said to have taken off from Lebanon and was intercepted over the Mediterranean Sea, five nautical miles west of the Israeli city of Haifa, at an altitude of 6,000 feet.
According to Army Radio, Israel now assesses that the drone was likely sent by IRGC members in Lebanon and that it was not carrying any explosives. Channel 2 reportedly has a similar report, and an account in Haaretz states that “it seems that those responsible for the launching of the drone were the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon.”
These reports counter the claim of Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon that the drone was sent by Hezbollah. “By 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,” Danon said on Thursday.
On Thursday evening, the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah denied that it had sent the drone. “Hezbollah denies sending any unmanned drone towards occupied Palestine,” a headline on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar said.
Last October, the IAF shot down a drone, which Hezbollah took responsibility for, near the Yatir Forest in the northern Negev. When Hassan Nasrallah, the terror group’s Secretary-General, 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.”
Israeli authorities are reportedly still searching for the remains of Thursday’s drone. In addition, the drone’s mission remains unclear; some reports suggested that it was conducting surveillance on Israeli gas rigs in the Mediterranean, however. Israeli officials have expressed concern on a number of occasions that Hezbollah or other terror groups may try to target Israeli gas rigs in the Mediterranean.
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