The Israel Defense Forces announced Wednesday that it successfully downed a drone launched by the Hezbollah terror group heading for Israeli assets at sea a week ago, hours after Lebanese media disclosed the incident.
On Saturday, the IDF said it successfully intercepted three Hezbollah drones heading for the Karish gas field. Hezbollah confirmed it launched the drones after previously threatening the field, which sits in an maritime area that both Lebanon and Israel claim as their own.
The military said the UAV taken down last Wednesday was intercepted “at a great distance from the maritime border” within Lebanon’s exclusive economic zone.
The IDF added that there was no threat or danger to Israel’s assets, indicating the drone was not armed.
The IDF did not immediately disclose how the drone was taken down in the June 29 incident, but it was thought to have been using electronic warfare means. The three drones heading for Karish on Saturday were downed by a fighter jet and missiles launched from Navy ships.
The military’s Wednesday announcement confirmed a report in the Lebanese pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar newspaper earlier in the day, which said Saturday’s attempt by the terror group preceded another last Wednesday.
The paper cited “informed sources” as saying “the drones that were launched last Saturday were not the first operation, but were preceded by another operation on Wednesday.”
It was not immediately clear why Israel did not disclose the incident until Al-Akhbar’s report.
The maritime border dispute between the two nations has been ongoing for several years. Despite US attempts to broker a deal, talks have repeatedly stalled over the issue, although US Envoy for Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein said last week that some progress had been made in recent negotiations.
Hezbollah’s chief Hassan Nasrallah threatened Israel after a new drilling platform arrived at the gas field a month ago, saying that his organization is capable of preventing such action, including by force.
“We pledge to the Lebanese people: the resistance is materially and militarily capable of preventing the enemy from extracting gas from the disputed Karish field,” Nasrallah said last month. “No steps taken by the enemy can protect this craft or this extraction operation.”
After Saturday’s incident, Hezbollah confirmed that it launched the three unarmed drones, saying they were intended to carry out a “reconnaissance mission” in the area.
Hezbollah added that the mission was accomplished successfully and “a message was received.”
Israel and Hezbollah are bitter enemies that fought a month-long war in the summer of 2006. Israel considers the group its most serious immediate threat, estimating it has some 150,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israeli cities.
Agencies contributed to this report.