Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia, boasted yesterday it had infiltrated Israeli airspace with a drone, flying it near to a nuclear installation before it was shot down.Only hours after Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said he would retaliate against future incursions Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said: “This is not the first time and will not be the last. We can reach any place we want.”
Israeli Air force jets shot down the unarmed drone over southern Israel’s Negev desert near the country’s nuclear plant at Dimona after it entered the country’s airspace from the Mediterranean Sea last week.
Officials said the incursion was launched from outside Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories and pointed the figure at Iran as the supplier of the equipment.
The Israeli prime minister directly pointed the finger at Hizbollah and said Israel would respond to any further threats.
“We are acting with determination to protect our borders,” he said. “As we prevented last weekend an attempt by Hizbollah. We shall continue to act aggressively against all threats.”
Last night in a televised address Sheik Nasrallah said the drone had flown sensitive sites.
“A sophisticated reconnaissance aircraft was sent from Lebanese territory … and traveled hundreds of kilometers (miles) over the sea before crossing enemy lines and into occupied Palestine,” he said.
“Possession of such an aerial capacity is a first in the history of any resistance movement in Lebanon and the region.”
Hizbollah has celebrated the drone manoeuvre and Israel’s failure to shoot the drone down until it was deep inside its territory. A report of the website of al Manar, its television station, said: “Enemy in state of fear from unmanned aircraft.”
Israel Army radio and the top-selling Yediot Aharonot daily said the air force had only managed to shoot down the drone on the second attempt.
Both reports said that the first missile fired by the F-16 jet missed the drone which was eventually brought by a Panther missile, the military’s most advanced air-to-air projectile.
*The remains of an Israeli soldier who went missing in northern Israel in 2005 have been found not far from where he was last seen. Private Majdi Halabi’s remains were discovered in woods about two miles from the Galilee town where he was sighted on May 24, 2005.
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