The IDF on Saturday shot down over the Mediterranean Sea three unarmed reconnaissance drones launched by Hezbollah that were intended to send a “message” to Israel, and Israel’s new prime minister warned the terror group threatened a potential agreement with Lebanon over maritime natural gas rights. “Hezbollah is continuing on the path of terrorism and is hurting Lebanon’s ability to reach an agreement on a maritime border. Israel will continue to defend itself, its citizens and its assets,” Yair Lapid was quoted by an Israeli press release as saying on Sunday. A gas field near the marine border between the two countries is at the center of the dispute, with the United States working to mediate between the sides.
Lapid—who became Israel’s prime minister over the weekend as part of a rotation agreement ahead of new elections later this year—called the UAVs “hostile” and said that they “tried to harm Israeli infrastructure in Israel’s economic waters.” The Times of Israel in a report on the incident said Israel has set up a drilling platform in the maritime gas field, although the report also noted that both Israel and Hezbollah said the drones were unarmed, making it unclear what harm was posed to the Israeli property. The report noted the UAVs were an attempt by Hezbollah to send a “message” that it could reach Israeli’s gas rig, although that was unsuccessful.
The IDF Twitter feed said in a series of posts that an initial review indicated that the drones “did not pose any imminent threat” and were intercepted as they approached Israel’s economic waters. “The UAVs were identified by detection systems and monitored by ground control units throughout their flight. The UAVs were identified at an early stage and intercepted at the optimal operational point,” tweeted the IDF account.
The posts included a video of all three drones being destroyed midflight, with the Twitter feed clarifying that an Israeli fighter jet and an Israeli Navy missile ship took out the UAVs. Said the IDF Twitter posts, “The detection and alert systems functioned as required. This embodies the concept of multi-layered air defense in the best possible manner in unison with the professional activities of the soldiers at sea and in the air who successfully carried out the defensive mission.”
The incident comes as Lebanon’s Naharnet reported that Lebanese Caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib told LCBI Television he expects an agreement with Israel over the marine border will happen this September. The comments follow a press release from US State Department spokesperson Ned Price last week that called indirect talks held with both sides “productive” and that they “advanced the objective of narrowing differences between the two sides. The United States will remain engaged with parties in the days and weeks ahead.”
Then came Hezbollah’s drone “message” just days later.
While new to his role, Lapid—previously Israel’s Foreign Minister—is well aware of Hezbollah’s threat to Israel and he has greater concerns than just whether or not the terror group wants to impede an agreement between the neighboring countries.
In his first speech as prime minister delivered on Saturday night, and also published by Israel, Lapid warned, “I stand before you at this moment and say to everyone seeking our demise, from Gaza to Tehran, from the shores of Lebanon to Syria: don’t test us. Israel knows how to use its strength against every threat, against every enemy.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, July 3, 2022)