Beirut: Lebanon condemned an Israeli “aggression” after two drones Sunday targeted the Beirut stronghold of the Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah, warning of further regional tensions.
Hezbollah, considered a terrorist organisation by Israel and the United States, is a major political actor in Lebanon and a key backer of the Damascus regime in war-torn Syria.
The early morning incident in south Beirut came hours after Israel said it had conducted air strikes in neighbouring Syria to prevent an Iranian force from launching an attack on the Jewish state.
A war monitor said the air raids in the southeast of Damascus killed two Hezbollah members and one Iranian among five fighters.
The Shiite movement and Israel have upped their belligerent rhetoric in recent months, after fighting several wars the last of which was in 2006.
Lebanon’s army said “two drones belonging to the Israeli enemy violated Lebanese airspace... over the southern suburbs of Beirut”, a Hezbollah stronghold in the capital.
“The first fell while the second exploded in the air causing material damage,” he said.
Questioned by AFP, the Israeli army declined to comment on the Lebanese claim about the drones.
Earlier a Hezbollah spokesman, Mohamed Afif, insisted his movement did not shoot down either of the two drones but said that one had damaged a Hezbollah media centre.
“The first drone fell without causing damage while the second one was laden with explosives and exploded causing huge damage to the media centre,” Afif said.
“The first drone did not explode and it is now in the possession of Hezbollah which is analysing it.”
An AFP correspondent saw security forces deployed in the area of the incident.
‘Threat to regional stability’
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah, said the drone incursion targeted “stability and peace in Lebanon and the region”.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who is one of the Shiite group’s most prominent political opponents, condemned a “blatant attack on Lebanon’s sovereignty”.
“This new aggression... forms a threat to regional stability and an attempt to push the situation towards more tension,” he said.
Hariri also charged that it was in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
That 33-day war killed 1,200 in Lebanon and 160 in Israel.