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Hezbollah says it downed Israeli drone outside southern Lebanese town

Israeli military says one of its unmanned aircraft 'fell inside southern Lebanon during routine operations'
Hezbollah and the Israeli army exchanged cross-border fire a week ago after a drone attack in a Hezbollah-controlled Beirut suburb (File pic - AFP)

Hezbollah said it downed an Israeli unmanned aircraft on Monday outside a southern Lebanese town after it crossed the border.

The Israeli drone is now in the hands of Hezbollah's fighters, the movement said in a statement on Monday.

The Israeli military said one of its drones "fell inside southern Lebanon during routine operations".

It did not say what had caused the drone to crash and said "there is no concern information could be taken from it".

An Israeli military spokeswoman said it was a "simple drone", without elaborating.

Hezbollah said they had "confronted" the drone with "appropriate weapons" as it was heading towards Ramyah and it was brought down on the edge of the town.

Reporting from the Israel-Lebanon border, a correspondent for Hezbollah's al-Manar television said the drone had not sustained much damage, and had been in Lebanese airspace for around five minutes.

Sarah, a 32-year-old social worker who spoke to Middle East Eye following the drone incident but asked for her village not to be named, said: "Things are normal in the south. 

"There is no tension. Life almost immediately went back to normal, and people went about their usual business after both incidents (the downing of the drone last month and on Sunday).

"People woke up to the news today, but went on to make hrisseh (a dish traditionally made during Ashoura), or gather for Ashoura sermons.

"I wasn't worried or afraid because I knew that the resistance would respond in kind to any Israeli attack, and the Israelis know that."

'New phase'

Hezbollah and the Israeli army exchanged cross-border fire a week ago after a drone attack in a Hezbollah-controlled Beirut suburb in the fiercest shelling exchange between the two adversaries since the 2006 Lebanon war.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah had blamed Israel for the drone attack and vowed the group would target Israeli drones that enter Lebanon’s airspace.

Nasrallah said while a flare-up with Israel at the border was over, the episode had launched a “new phase” in which the Iran-backed group no longer had red lines.

Nasrallah: Hezbollah's cross-border attack sets up 'new phase' in Israel conflict
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Israel had also raised the stakes by accusing Iran of stepping up efforts to provide Hezbollah with precision-guided missile production facilities. Hezbollah denied this.

Hezbollah said it destroyed an Israeli armoured vehicle during the exchange of fire last week, killing and wounding those inside, and it broadcast what it said was footage of two missiles hitting a moving vehicle.

Israel said it had faked soldier injuries to dampen any inclination of Hezbollah to escalate hostilities.

Nasrallah said their attack had marked the first such Hezbollah operation in a long time targeting Israel in positions across the border, not in the Israeli-occupied Shebaa farms.

The latest tension came after Hezbollah, whose forces have fought in support of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s war, said two of its men were killed in an Israeli strike in Syria late last month.

Israel said its attack in Syria thwarted an Iranian-led drone strike against it.

Rockets 'launched from Damascus'

Israel said on Monday that several rockets were fired at its territory from Syria by an Iranian-backed force in what would be a rare incident, but they all fell short.

"Earlier this morning, a number of rockets were launched from Syria towards Israel, all failed to hit Israeli territory," a statement from Israel's military said.

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"The rockets were launched from the outskirts of Damascus by Shiite militia operatives operating under the Iranian Quds Force (the elite wing of Iran's Revolutionary Guards)," it said.

Several hours earlier, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that unidentified aircraft had struck Iran-backed militias in eastern Syria.

The UK-based activist group said the attack near Al Bukamal, close to the Syria-Iraq border, had left 18 fighters dead.

In June 2018, strikes near the Iraqi border killed 55 pro-regime forces, mostly Syrians and Iraqis, the Observatory said.

A US official said at the time that Israel was responsible, Israel declined to comment.

Base claim

Last week, Fox News reported that the Iranian military was building a new military base in Syria, citing multiple Western intelligence sources.

The report said that the new Iranian compound, situated where Monday's strikes took place, was being built from scratch by the Quds forces and its construction was approved by top Tehran leaders

Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in neighbouring Syria against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets, but rarely acknowledges them.

An Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment on whether Israel was behind the latest strikes, the AFP news agency said.