Hezbollah Owns Responsibility For Last Week's Drone Operation Over Israel

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Lebanon's Shiite militant movement Hezbollah has admitted that it was responsible for launching the Iranian-made drone, which was shot down by the Israeli military last week while flying over the Jewish nation.

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah told the movement's al-Manar television network on Thursday that the unmanned surveillance aircraft had flown over "sensitive sites" in Israel before it was brought down by Israeli fighter jets. Experts believe that he was referring to Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor.

"A sophisticated reconnaissance aircraft was sent from Lebanese territory... and traveled hundreds of kilometers over the sea before crossing enemy lines and into occupied Palestine," Nasrallah said, adding that the remote controlled aircraft was made in Iran but assembled in Lebanon.

Apparently referring to a drone sent by Hezbollah during its 2006 war against Israel, Nasrallah said: "It's not the first time and it will not be the last. We can reach all the zones [of Israel]. Possession of such an aerial capacity is a first in the history of any resistance movement in Lebanon and the region."

The Hezbollah drone was brought down over a largely uninhabited area north of the Negev desert after it entered the Jewish nation from the Mediterranean. Incidentally, the aircraft, which did not carry any explosives, had traveled some 35 miles into Israel before it was shot down.

Israeli military said its ground-based defense systems had detected the aircraft before it entered the country's airspace. Although the Israeli military is yet to disclose the location from where the drone was launched, media reports suggested that it originated near the southern Lebanese port city of Sidon.

Also on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged for the first time that the downed drone was launched by the Hezbollah from Lebanon. Speaking during a visit to the border with Egypt, he said Israel was "acting with determination" to protect its borders and added: "As we prevented last weekend an attempt by Hezbollah, we shall continue to act aggressively against all threats."

Nasrallah's statement marked one of the rare occasions that his militant group has admitted that it is receiving military support from Iran. Notably, the Hezbollah leader had recently threatened to attack strategic targets in Israel, including power plants.

Israel has been concerned about Hezbollah's military capability ever since it fought a 34-day war with the Lebanese militant group in 2006. That war left more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and some 160 Israelis dead. Most of the Israelis killed were soldiers.

Also, the latest developments come amid speculations that Israeli may soon launch a unilateral military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities if Tehran does not end its disputed uranium enrichment work. Analysts believe that Israel is being held back by the United States, the Jewish State's staunchest ally.

Israel wants the West to consider military options for ending Iran's disputed nuclear program, which most nations suspect is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, Tehran argues that it has the right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Iran is currently reeling under severe sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council over Tehran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment. Analysts believe that Russia and China, both Iranian allies, are unlikely to support further U.N. sanctions against Tehran over the issue.

However, the United States and its allies have imposed separate sanctions on Iran, targeting its oil and banking sectors, after a report released by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in November cautioned that Tehran may be planning to develop nuclear weapons.

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