Lebanon's Hezbollah downs Israeli drone in southern town

Hezbollah says Israeli drone is now in the hands of its fighters after it was shot down in the town of Ramyah.

    Tensions flared in Lebanon in recent weeks after Israel allegedly used a drone to attack a Hezbollah compound [File: Ammar Awad/Reuters]
    Tensions flared in Lebanon in recent weeks after Israel allegedly used a drone to attack a Hezbollah compound [File: Ammar Awad/Reuters]

    Lebanon's Hezbollah says it has shot down an Israeli unmanned aircraft outside the southern town of Ramyah.

    The group said in a statement on Monday it had "confronted" the drone with "appropriate weapons" as it was heading towards the town.

    The aircraft was now in the hands of Hezbollah's fighters, it added.

    In a statement, the Israeli military said one of its drones "fell inside southern Lebanon during routine operations". It did not say what had caused the crash but added, "there is no concern information could be taken from it".

    Considered one of the most powerful groups in Lebanon, Hezbollah has three ministers in government and is represented in the Lebanese parliament. It has a strongly-armed wing, with its forces fighting in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad's troops.

    Israel considers Hezbollah as the most potent military threat on its border.

    Mounting tensions

    Hezbollah and Israel fought a month-long war in 2006. The border between the two countries, which remain technically in a state of war, has been mostly calm since.

    Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Lebanon's capital, Beirut, said this was the first time Hezbollah said it had downed an Israeli drone since 2006, when the two sides fought a month-long war.

    "Hezbollah is trying to create some sort of a deterrence because Israel in many ways has been acting with impunity in neighbouring Syria targeting what it says are Iranian-backed bases," Khodr said.

    The incident took place a week after Israel and Hezbollah exchanged fire at the border, in the first such flare-up since the war.

    Tensions had earlier escalated after Hezbollah accused Israel of being behind a drone attack on one of its compounds in southern Beirut.

    That incident was condemned by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri as an open attack on his country's sovereignty.

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    In response, Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles into Israel, destroying a military vehicle. 

    Israel then returned more fire, sending approximately 100 artillery shells into Lebanon.

    Following last week's clash, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the group would shoot down Israeli drones in Lebanese airspace.

    "What we're seeing is Israel expanding its operations against Iran wherever it can," Al Jazeera's Khodr said of the latest incident.

    "What Israel is trying to do is weaken Iran across the region and prevent it from gaining more influence."

    The latest escalation comes more than a week before Israel's parliamentary elections, scheduled to be held on September 17.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies