UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Two Israeli warplanes crashed over Beirut’s southern suburbs, dominated by Hezbollah, in an attempt to push the situation towards more tension, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said on Sunday.
A Hezbollah official told Reuters a drone crashed and a second drone exploded near the ground and caused some damage when it crashed before dawn near the group’s media center, the first such incident in more than a decade.
Hariri said in a statement issued by his office, “the new aggression, coupled with the heavy flight of enemy aircraft over Beirut and the suburbs, poses a threat to regional stability and an attempt to push the situation towards more tension.”
The Israeli army declined to comment.
A Hezbollah spokesman said the planes were “targeting” certain locations that had not yet been identified by the investigation.
“The decision on all that is happening and the situation in responding to this brutal aggression will be decided through a speech,” Hezbollah official Mohammad Afif told reporters in televised remarks.
The incident came hours after the Israeli army said its planes had bombed Iranian forces and Shi’ite factions near the Syrian capital Damascus, which it said had planned to launch “attack drones” towards Israel.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two Hezbollah members and an Iranian were killed in Israeli air strikes that targeted the Syrian capital Damascus.
Major General Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, told reporters that “a number of attack drones” were planned to be launched simultaneously in northern Israel on Thursday and that each of them would have carried several kilograms of explosives, but Israel aborted the plan.
The spokesman did not disclose the actions taken by Israel on that day, but described the attack drones that were to be directed at striking targets as highly accurate.
Conricus said the drones arrived at Damascus airport several weeks ago with “Iranian agents” and were then taken to a compound run by the Qods Force in a village southeast of the city.
Conricus said Israel launched the attack on Saturday after learning that another attempt to launch drones was imminent.
– “Kill him first” –
“There is no immunity for Iran anywhere,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Twitter. Our forces are working everywhere against Iranian aggression … if they kill you, kill him first.”
In Tehran, a senior Revolutionary Guards commander denied on Sunday that Iranian targets were hit in Israeli air strikes in Syria, the semi-official IRNA news agency reported.
Israel views the Iranian-backed Hezbollah as the biggest threat across its border. The two sides fought a month-long war in 2006 that killed about 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 158 in Israel, mostly soldiers.
Lebanon has complained to the United Nations that Israeli aircraft have regularly violated its airspace in recent years.
Residents in the southern suburb said they heard an explosion. A witness said the army sealed off the streets as a fire broke out.
“The second plane was booby-trapped, exploded and caused serious damage in the building of the media center,” a Hezbollah spokesman told the official NNA news agency.
He explained that the first plane, “which did not explode is now in the custody of the party, which is working to analyze the background of its conduct and the tasks that tried to carry out.”
The Lebanese army said an Israeli drone crashed and another exploded in the southern suburbs of Beirut at 0230 am (2330 GMT), causing only material damage.
“Immediately an army force came and cordoned off the crash site and took the necessary measures,” the military said in a statement.
Israel’s concern has been heightened by Iran’s growing influence during the war in neighboring Syria, where Tehran and Hezbollah are providing significant military support to Damascus.
Israel says its air force has launched hundreds of attacks in Syria against what it calls Iranian targets and arms transfers to Hezbollah.
Syrian television said air defenses had responded to “hostile targets” in Damascus and the army said it had destroyed most of Israel’s missiles.
The United States and Iran are at odds over Tehran’s nuclear program and the Gulf, exchanging accusations about threatening the security of the strategic waterway.
Iran also has wide influence in Iraq.
Iraqi armed factions accused the United States and Israel on Wednesday of being behind a series of recent explosions at their bases and warehouses.
The United States has allowed four Israeli drones to enter the area with US troops and carry out missions in Iraqi territory, the PMF said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon hinted on Thursday that Israel might be involved in attacks on Iranian-linked targets in Iraq.
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