Two weeks after the first significant Israel-Hezbollah exchange of fire since the 2006 war, Hezbollah announced Monday it has downed another Israeli drone in southern Lebanon, The Washington Post reports.
A Hezbollah media statement said the group had “confronted” the Israel drone with “appropriate weapons” near the southern town of Ramiyeh, indicating the small drone was shot down. The paramilitary group now has the drone in its possession.
However, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) denied its surveillance drone was shot down, only saying it had crashed in the pre-dawn hours of Monday morning. The IDF affirmed it had been conducting a reconnaissance mission in the area.
Simultaneously a separate IDF statement claimed Iran’s elite Quds Force had fired multiple rockets from Syria toward Israel, but noted all failed to hit their targets. While no proof or video was immediately offered to back it, the statement added, “We hold the Syrian regime responsible for events taking place in Syria” — which strongly suggests Israeli could be preparing to retaliate on sites in or near Damascus, or on positions in southern Syria.
Hezbollah has recently vowed to shoot down any Israeli aircraft violating Lebanese airspace after late last month twin Israeli drones mounted an attack on Hezbollah offices in south Beirut, and after another drone assassinated the commander of a Palestinian militant group (PFLP-GC) in the Bekaa Valley.
“I tell the Israeli army on the border — be prepared and wait for us,” Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said in a subsequent address. Indeed a week ago on Sunday Hezbollah’s retaliation began with an anti-tank missile attack on an Israeli military vehicle near the border, which video of the operation shows suffered a direct hit.
Many analysts have read the mounting tensions and new exchanges of fire as holding the potential to escalate into a renewed all-out Israeli-Lebanese war, similar to the month-long 2006 war.
Meanwhile, also on Monday there are as yet unconfirmed reports of possible Israeli airstrikes targeting Iranian forces in eastern Syria, specifically in the city of Albukamal on the Iraq border. A number of explosions were heard inside Albukamal city overnight; however, it’s unclear if foreign aircraft or drones were behind it.
Syrian opposition media outlets are reporting casualties from the alleged attack. As Haaretz summarizes of the unconfirmed reports:
Eighteen Iran-back militia members were killed in the strike, the British-based watchdog said on Monday. The Assad regime and Syrian state media didn’t report the incident.
If true we could be preparing to witness yet more build-up to major war between Israel and Iranian allies in the Middle East.