BEIRUT: Hizbullah flew an unmanned surveillance drone over northern Israel yesterday afternoon in a move that signals the resistance group’s determination to continue to bring its war deep into Israel.
Hizbullah said: “In response to repeated and continuous enemy violations of Lebanese airspace, the surveillance plane Mersad 1 carried out a reconnaissance mission in the skies of occupied northern Palestine, flying over several Israeli settlements.”
The Israeli army confirmed the drone breached its airspace and responded by dispatching some warplanes over the southern Lebanese towns including Tyre.
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which monitors the border between Israel and Lebanon, said: “There have been a few violations by drones and jets today.”
The drone, the second launched by Hizbullah since last November, reached the coastal city of Akka at around 5:15 local time before returning safely to its base in southern Lebanon.
This latest action by Hizbullah comes amid mounting international and some domestic pressure for the group to disarm and become fully integrated into Lebanon’s political system.
Last month U.S. President George W. Bush indicated Washington was willing to deal with Hizbullah as a political party if it gave up its arms and disbanded its military wing.
In addition to calling for a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, UN Security Council Resolution 1559 also insists that Hizbullah should disarm.
But observers believe the timing of this latest exercise is a clear signal that the resistance will continue to act autonomously when it sees fit.
The fact that Hizbullah seems able to violate Israeli airspace at will is a severe embarrassment for the Jewish state’s air force, which has prided itself for decades on having total control of the region’s skies.
More worrying is that it is understood the drones are capable of carrying up to 50 kilograms of explosive which could strike targets deep inside Israel. – With agencies