The Israeli Air Force on Thursday shot down an unmanned drone several miles off the coast of the northern port city of Haifa after it entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon, the military said.
“I view with great gravity this attempt to violate our border. We will continue to do what is necessary to defend the security of Israel’s citizens,” Reuters reported Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying in a statement.
The military said the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was detected in Lebanese skies and intercepted by an F-16 fighter jet some five nautical miles (9 km) from the Israeli port city of Haifa.
Israel's Channel 2 television station reported that the aircraft took off from near Sidon in southern Lebanon and was quickly detected by Israeli Air Defense Units, with warplanes and fighter helicopters dispatched to confirm it was not a civilian aircraft.
The Commander of Israel's Air Force was following the incident from the control room and - once it had been established the drone was a hostile aircraft - ordered it to be shot down, the station reported.
Israeli ships are attempting to recover the remains of the drone from the sea, to try and determine if it was meant to explode over an Israeli target or simply take pictures.
It is the second known instance in which the Lebanese militant group, a bitter Israeli enemy, has sent a drone into Israeli airspace. Last October, the Israeli Air Force shot down an unmanned aircraft in a similar incident (photo).
Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006 that ended in a stalemate.
Netanyahu has recently warned that Hezbollah might try to take advantage of the instability in neighboring Syria to obtain what he calls game-changing weapons.
Hezbollah later said it did not send a drone over Israel. “Hezbollah denies sending any unmanned drone toward occupied Palestine,” Hezbollah’s television channel Al-Manar said.
Source: Reuters; BBC