Lebanon’s prime minister Saad Hariri has said two Israeli drones, which came down in the Hezbollah-dominated southern suburbs of Beirut, amounted to an open attack on the country’s sovereignty and an attempt to foment regional tensions.
“The new aggression…constitutes a threat to regional stability and an attempt to push the situation towards further tension,” Hariri said on Sunday in a statement from his office.
Earlier, Mohammed Afif, a Hezbollah spokesperson, said a small, unmanned reconnaissance drone fell on the roof of a building that was housing Hezbollah’s media office in the Moawwad neighbourhood in Dahyeh suburb on Sunday.
He said a second drone, which appeared to have been sent by Israel to search for the first drone less than 45 minutes later, exploded in the air and crashed nearby.
“We did not shoot down or explode any of the drones,” Afif told The Associated Press news agency.
Residents said they heard an aircraft flying just before the blast and reported later that the area was sealed off
Residents reported one large explosion that shook the area early on Sunday, triggering a fire. They said the nature of the blast was not immediately clear but said it may have been caused by the drone that went down in the area amid Israeli air activity in neighbouring Syria.
Residents told the Associated Press they heard an aircraft flying just before the blast and reported later that Hezbollah sealed off the area.
A man was seen taking away metal fragments in a white plastic bag that he said contained parts of the aircraft that went down.
The Israeli military said it does not comment on “foreign reports”.
Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Beirut, said it was “a densely populated neighbourhood in the Lebanese capital and also a Hezbollah stronghold”.
Damage inside Hezbollah’s media office in the Moawwad neighbourhood [Anwar Amro/AFP]
Late on Saturday, the Israeli military attacked targets near Syria’s capital of Damascus in what it said was a successful effort to thwart an imminent Iranian drone attack on Israel, stepping up an already heightened campaign against Iranian military activity in the region.
The raid, which triggered Syrian anti-aircraft fire, appeared to be one of the most intense attacks by Israeli forces in several years of hits on Iranian targets in Syria.
Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps’s Al Quds force, working with allied Shia fighters, had been planning to send a number of explosives-laden attack drones into Israel.
Syrian state TV said the country’s air defences responded to “hostile” projectiles over Damascus and shot down incoming missiles before they reached their targets.
In recent days, US officials said Israeli attacks have also hit Iranian targets in Iraq.
Hezbollah and Israel fought a month-long war in 2006. The volatile border between the two countries, which remain technically in a state of war, has been mostly calm since.
SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES