Israel on offensive as drone shot down near nuclear site
Israeli warplanes have staged mock raids over villages in southern Lebanon, the day after the Israeli military shot down a drone that, it is suspected, was launched by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah or its patron Iran.
Lebanon's national news agency said the planes flew low over the market town of Nabatiyeh and nearby villages, breaking the sound barrier. The Israeli military declined to comment on reports that its jets flew over southern Lebanon
The drone that was shot down entered Israeli airspace from the southern Mediterranean off the coast of Gaza shortly before 10am on Saturday and progressed slowly over southern Israel for 15 minutes before it was targeted.
It crashed 25 miles from the Dimona nuclear power station.
Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the infiltration, but the Israeli authorities released few details and largely refrained from comment, perhaps hoping to calm escalating domestic concerns over a potential conflict with Iran and its proxies.
"If this (incident) was a message from (President) Ahmadinejad (of Iran), it was intended to deter an Israeli strike or even threaten a pre-emptive strike against Israel," said Dr Boaz Ganor, Executive Director of the Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Tel Aviv.
"Whoever sent this drone would have at least considered the outcome that it would spark a regional escalation. Unfortunately at this point, anything could provide that spark."
While Tehran has not yet commented on the incursion into Israeli airspace, the incident bears a distinctly Iranian fingerprint.
Hezbollah has used unmanned aircraft in previous acts of cross-border aggression, but these have never reached so far inside Israeli territory.
To operate an aircraft by remote control at such a distance requires advanced technology that Israel believes is beyond Hezbollah's capability, but well within Iran's.
However, regional security analysts agree the drone was most likely engaged in an intelligence-gathering mission, possibly to test the Israeli military's strategy in the event of an infiltration. (© Daily Telegraph, London)