BEIRUT: Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah confirmed Thursday that the Lebanese resistance group was behind an Iranian-made drone that Israel shot down over the weekend and warned that the operation would not be the party’s last.
“This [speech] is to announce that the Islamic Resistance was responsible for the mission and this is the first time in the history of resistance movements that [a party] has demonstrated such aerial capability,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech on Al-Manar.
On Saturday, Israel said it shot down an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle that entered its airspace. Hours before Nasrallah’s speech Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that Hezbollah was behind the drone operation and that the Jewish state would “defend its borders."
Nasrallah said the drone, which “was manufactured in Iran but assembled by the resistance group,” was launched from Lebanon and violated Israeli space in which it conducted reconnaissance of “sensitive and important locations” before being shot down.
Nasrallah said the suspect Dimona nuclear facility in the Negev Desert was one of the sites that the drone, named “Ayyoub” in honor of a Hezbollah fighter who specialized in reconnaissance, flew over.
During a talk show following Nasrallah’s speech, Al-Manar TV broadcast animated footage detailing the drone’s flight path.
According to the footage, “Ayyoub” was launched from Lebanon and flew south over the Mediterranean Sea, avoiding detection by Israeli coastal radar before it reached the Gaza Strip. From the Hamas-controlled territory, the drone proceeded to the Negev Desert before it was shot down by the Israeli air force. The aircraft traversed a total of 300 kilometers, the narrator of the program said.
The drone had a potential range of 1,000 kilometers and was in the air for approximately three hours. The UAV lacked a payload of armaments but could be fitted with bombs.
According to Israeli officials, the drone was shot down Saturday over a forest near the occupied West Bank after it penetrated the Jewish State’s airspace by some 55 kilometers.
Describing the drone flight over Israel as the party’s “natural right,” Nasrallah said Hezbollah would send other UAVs at the time of its choosing.
“It is our natural right to dispatch reconnaissance planes to occupied Palestine [Israel] whenever we want. This was not the first time and it will not be the last,” he said, noting that the Jewish state had violated Lebanese airspace 20,864 times since the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.
The Israeli military has on one other occasion shot down a UAV belonging to Lebanese group. In July 2006, a Hezbollah drone was downed by the Jewish state over its territorial waters. A year earlier, Hezbollah succeeded in flying a drone over parts of northern Israel.
The Hezbollah chief said that the weekend operation vividly demonstrated Hezbollah’s stealth tactics.
“[The operation] reveals that we are able to conceal our capabilities and unveil them at the right time in order to send certain messages at the right moment.”
“This mission also proves that the primary team in Hezbollah is never preoccupied from Lebanon’s main enemy [Israel] regardless of regional developments and events,” Nasrallah said, urging Lebanese to feel “proud of such an accomplishment.”