The leader of the Lebanese movement Hezbollah has said that his organisation launched an Iranian-built drone that was shot down in Israeli airspace last week.
“A sophisticated reconnaissance aircraft was sent from Lebanese territory … and travelled hundreds of kilometres over the sea before crossing enemy lines and into occupied Palestine,” Hassan Nasrallah said on television on Thursday.
He said the drone had overflown sensitive sites in Israel.
“Possession of such an aerial capacity is a first in the history of any resistance movement in Lebanon and the region,” he said.
“It’s not the first time [that a drone was sent] and it will not be the last. We can reach all the zones” of Israel, said Nasrallah, referring to a less sophisticated drone sent by Hezbollah during Lebanon’s 2006 conflict with Israel.
He said the drone was “Iranian built and assembled in Lebanon”, and was refered to as “Ayoub”.
Nasrallah’s announcement came shortly after Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu accused Hezbollah of launching the previously unidentified drone.
“We are acting with determination to protect our borders… as we prevented last weekend an attempt by Hezbollah,” Netanyahu office quoted him as saying. “We shall continue to act aggressively against all threats.”
Nasrallah echoed the Israeli prime minister’s sentiment.
“Israel is breaking the law and invading our space all the time. They should get used to us invading their space,” he said in his televised speech.
He alleged that Israel had violated Lebanese airspace 20,468 times since August 2006.
Israeli air force jets on Saturday shot down the unarmed drone over southern Israel’s Negev desert after it entered the country’s airspace from the Mediterranean Sea.
Denial of Syrian involvement
Nasrallah also denied reports that his group was aiding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government to put down the uprising against it.
“We did not fight alongside the regime until now. The regime did not ask us to do so and also who says that doing so is in Lebanon’s interest?” he said.
Hezbollah’s opponents have accused it of sending fighters into Syria.
Last month, the US Treasury sanctioned Nasrallah for helping Assad crush anti-government protests, as well as two other members for the group’s “terrorist activities” in general.
Nasrallah said that there were some Hezbollah supporters who lived on the Syrian side of the Lebanese-Syrian border who had decided to protect themselves from “mercenaries attacking their villages”.
He said that this action was undertaken by them as individuals.
“It was their choice. We can’t stop the Lebanese that fled from Syria, like we can’t stop them from staying and protecting their homes,” said Nasrallah.