Israel shoots down drone, Hezbollah denies it's theirs

The Shiite militant group in Lebanon has sent drones over Israel in the past, linking their use to Israeli violations of Lebanon's airspace.

Ariel Schalit/AP
An Israeli military naval ship and an Israeli air force helicopter operate next to a cruise ship off the coast of Haifa, northern Israel, Thursday. Israel shot down a drone off the northern Israeli coast Thursday in what Israeli officials said was a provocation by Lebanon's militant group Hezbollah.

An unidentified reconnaissance drone was shot down off the coast of northern Israel Thursday in what Israeli officials said was a provocation by Lebanon’s militant group Hezbollah.

But Hezbollah in a short statement denied sending a drone into Israel. And a source in the United Nations peacekeeping force in south Lebanon said that an initial assessment indicated no drone had been detected on their radars. The rare drone flight comes amid a significant increase in Israel’s aerial violations of Lebanese airspace since the beginning of the year, with up to 34 jets flying in Lebanese skies in one day alone in January.

Hezbollah has sent drones over Israel in the past, linking their use to Israeli violations of Lebanon's airspace.

The Israeli military said it detected the pilotless drone in the early afternoon heading toward the northern port city of Haifa, 25 miles south of the border with Lebanon. Israeli air force jets were dispatched to the area and the drone was shot down some five miles off the coast.

Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Israeli army spokesman, said that the drone had been tracked for several minutes as it passed through Lebanese territory before it was determined to be “hostile.”

“The drone was at 6,000 feet when it blew up and it was not immediately clear whether the drone was armed or not,” he said.

A helicopter carrying Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, to a ceremony in northern Israel was forced to land briefly while the drone was shot down.

“I see this attempt to breach our borders as extremely grave,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said. “We will continue to do whatever we must to protect the security of Israel’s citizens.”

Israeli military officials were initially cautious over allegations of who operated the drone. But Danny Danon, the deputy defence minister, squarely blamed Hezbollah.

“We’re talking about another attempt by Hezbollah to send an unmanned drone into Israeli territory,” he told Israeli army radio, describing it as “another attempt to destabilize the Middle East.”

He added, “We are ready to act as necessary. They know not to provoke us.”

Hezbollah has admitted flying drones in Israeli airspace on six separate occasions since November 2004, three of them during the month-long war with Israel in July 2006. (This sentence has been amended to reflect Hezbollah's denial that it sent today's drone.)

The last overflight was in October 2012 when Hezbollah flew an Iran-manufactured drone above southern Israel before it was shot down by an Israeli jet over the Negev desert. On that occasion, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, admitted his organization sent the drone.

“It was not the first time and it will not be the last. We can reach all the zones of Israel,” he said.

Nasrallah also used the occasion to note that in the six years between the end of the 2006 war and the drone flight over the Negev desert, Lebanon’s airspace had been violated 20,468 times by Israeli jets and drones.

The United Nations has repeatedly described Israel's overflights in Lebanese airspace as “provocative" and demanded a halt to the practice. A recent UN report recorded that Israel staged 34 air violations in one day alone in January. The report added that on November 28, 2012, six Israeli attack helicopters flew at low altitude in Lebanese airspace off the southern port city of Tyre.

Since the beginning of this year, there has been a significant escalation in Israeli aerial violations. Twin white contrails marking the passage of Israeli jets are a regular sight in the blue skies above Lebanon. Hours before the drone was intercepted off the Israeli coast, the rumble of Israeli jets flying above Beirut was clearly audible.

Israel says the reconnaissance flights are necessary to monitor Hezbollah’s activities in Lebanon. Additionally, Israel is concerned that advanced air defense systems or even chemical weapons could be delivered to Hezbollah from Syria.

On Jan. 31, Israel staged an unprecedented air strike against a suspected arms convoy outside Damascus that reportedly was carrying SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles for delivery to Hezbollah.

* This story was updated to include Hezbollah's denial of that it sent today's drone.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Israel shoots down drone, Hezbollah denies it's theirs
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today