Israel shoots down Hezbollah drones over Mediterranean: NPR

FILE – An Israeli Navy ship patrols the Mediterranean as Lebanon and Israel are called on to resume indirect talks over their disputed sea border with US mediation, near the southern city of Naqoura, Monday, June 6, 2022.

Mohammad Zaatari/AP


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Mohammad Zaatari/AP

Israel shoots down Hezbollah drones over Mediterranean: NPR

FILE – An Israeli Navy ship patrols the Mediterranean as Lebanon and Israel are called on to resume indirect talks over their disputed sea border with US mediation, near the southern city of Naqoura, Monday, June 6, 2022.

Mohammad Zaatari/AP

JERUSALEM – The Israeli military said on Saturday it shot down three unmanned aerial vehicles launched by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah en route to an area where an Israeli gas platform was recently installed in the Mediterranean.

The plane’s launch appeared to be an attempt by Hezbollah to influence US-brokered negotiations between Israel and Lebanon over their sea border, an area rich in natural gas.

In a statement, the Israeli said the plane was spotted early and did not pose an “imminent threat”. Nevertheless, the incident prompted a stern warning from Israeli Prime Minister, Yair Lapid.

“I stand before you right now and say to all who seek our downfall, from Gaza to Tehran, from the shores of Lebanon to Syria, don’t test us,” Lapid said in his first address to the nation since taking office on Friday. † “Israel knows how to use its strength against every threat, against every enemy.”

Earlier this month, Israel set up a gas platform in the Karish field, which Israel says is in some of its internationally recognized economic waters. Lebanon has claimed to be in disputed waters.

Hezbollah issued a brief statement confirming that it had launched three unarmed drones toward the disputed maritime issue over the Karish field during a reconnaissance mission. “The mission has been accomplished and the message has been received,” it reads.

Israel and Hezbollah are bitter enemies who fought a month-long war in the summer of 2006. Israel views the Iran-backed Lebanese group as the greatest immediate threat, and estimates that it has some 150,000 missiles and missiles aimed at Israel.

The US said last week that mediator Amos Hochstein had held talks with Lebanese and Israeli sides. “The exchanges were productive and furthered the goal of narrowing the differences between the two sides. The United States will remain engaged with parties in the coming days and weeks,” his office said in a statement last week.

The two countries, which have been officially at war since Israel’s creation in 1948, both claim some 860 square kilometers (330 sq mi) of Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to exploit offshore gas reserves as it grapples with the worst economic crisis in its modern history.

On Saturday, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati told reporters that Lebanon received “encouraging information” about the border dispute, but declined to comment further, saying Beirut is waiting for the “written official response to the suggestions from the Lebanese side”.

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