Sunday, November 07, 2004

Hizbullah flies first drone in Israeli airspace

Hizbullah sent its first reconnaissance drone into Israeli territory Sunday, flying over a northern corner of Israeli before crashing into the sea.

The flight by the Lebanese Shiite Muslim militant group is believed to be the first hostile aerial incursion from Lebanon into Israel since Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command members flew over in a hang glider in 1987 and killed six soldiers before being shot dead.

Hizbullah said in a statement that its military wing, the Islamic Resistance, sent its first-ever drone over 'occupied northern Palestine, flying over several Zionist settlements, reaching the coastal settlement of Nahariya and returning safely to its base.'

It was unclear if the drone was a homemade, makeshift aircraft or bought from abroad. Hizbullah, which is on the U.S. State Department list of terrorist organizations but considered in Lebanon to be a resistance group, did not describe its capabilities, say how many it had or provide further details.

Hizbullah's al-Manar TV station said the 'Mirsad 1' drone flew over Israel at a low altitude for 20 minutes without providing further details. Mirsad means 'observation post' in Arabic.

Israel's Army claimed the craft was Iranian-made and confirmed it penetrated Israeli airspace early Sunday and flew over western Galilee.

'This incident is part of the terrorist activity carried out by the Hizbullah terrorist organization with the support of Iran and Syria under the auspices of Lebanon, with the aim of targeting Israeli citizens,' the Israeli Army said in a statement.

Later, the Lebanese military said two Israeli drones twice violated Lebanese airspace Sunday afternoon, reaching the coastal town of Damour, south of the capital, Beirut. The Israeli Army refused to comment on the Lebanese statement.