Hezbollah Says It Downs Israeli Drone in South Lebanon

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
Toy soldiers, Hezbollah and Israel flags are seen in this illustration taken, October 15, 2023.

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Hezbollah said on Sunday it shot down an Israeli drone over southern Lebanon with a surface-to-air missile, the first time it has announced such an incident, as clashes on the Lebanese border escalate.

The drone was hit near Khiam, about 5 km (3 miles) from the border with Israel, and was seen falling in Israeli territory, Hezbollah added. Two security sources in Lebanon said it was the first time Hezbollah had announced downing an Israeli drone.

The Israeli Defence Ministry did not provide comment. Israel’s military, which claimed more strikes on what it described as Hezbollah targets on Sunday, also did not comment.

Mohanad Hage Ali, of the Carnegie Middle East Center, said Hezbollah has “insinuated they have this capability but it is the first time they declare they have this kind of capability to shoot down a drone”.

Earlier on Sunday, the United Nations’ Lebanon peacekeeping force UNIFIL said that one of its members was injured after shells hit its base near the village of Houla on the Lebanese-Israeli border on Saturday.

The Israeli military and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group in Lebanon have been exchanging fire on a daily basis since the start of the Gaza conflict three weeks ago.

On Sunday, the military said its troops struck a cell in southern Lebanon that attempted to fire anti-tank missiles towards Israel, and that its aircraft struck Hezbollah targets in response to projectile launches from Lebanese territory.

Some 46 Hezbollah fighters have been killed and 43 injured in the borderlands so far, the group said, adding it had conducted 84 attacks at 42 points along the border since the start of the clashes. Israel’s military says at least seven of its soldiers have been killed so far.

UNIFIL said on Saturday that its headquarters near the Lebanese coastal town of Naqoura was also damaged by a shell that landed inside the base.

“UNIFIL expresses serious concern over these two attacks on our troops who are tirelessly working 24/7 to restore stability in southern Lebanon and de-escalate this perilous situation, ” the force wrote on social media platform X.