Two Israeli drones have crashed in Beirut with one exploding next to an office belonging to Hizbollah, according to the Iran-backed Shia paramilitary group as well as Lebanese officials.
Israel has not commented on the drones, which fell in the Hizbollah-dominated district of the Lebanese capital early yesterday morning. But the crash came shortly after Israel confirmed it had bombed Iranian forces inside neighbouring Syria, foiling what Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, said would have been “an attack against Israel”.
Israel’s military said on Saturday night that it had prevented “multiple killer drones” attacking Israel “by striking Iranian Quds Force operatives and Shia Militia targets in Syria”.
Iran, which Israel and the US accuse of spreading its influence in the Middle East through armed proxy groups such as Hizbollah, has a military presence in Syria, where it supports the ruling Assad regime in Syria’s eight-year civil war.
The air strikes and drone activity are the latest signs that the proxy war between Israel and Iran is heating up. Unconfirmed reports that Israel has also attacked Iran-backed Shia militias in Iraq in recent weeks have stoked fears that Lebanon and Iraq could be drawn into the conflict.
Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, said on Sunday that the Israeli aircraft had violated Lebanon’s sovereignty.
Israel has frequently targeted Hizbollah inside Lebanon, which shares a border with Israel.
The first Israeli drone fell in Beirut’s southern Dahiyeh suburb without causing damage, while the second exploded nearby in mid-air, according to a statement by the Lebanese army. The explosion damaged a building housing Hizbollah’s media operations.
“Hizbollah did not bring down any aircraft,” said Mohammad Afif, Hizbollah’s spokesperson.
Three people suffered minor injuries, the Lebanese National News Agency reported.
The Israeli bombing in Syria on Saturday night south-east of Damascus came just days after unnamed US officials told the Associated Press that Israel was behind a series of strikes against Iranian proxy groups in Iraq.
Syrian state media said air defences intercepted incoming missiles. There were no confirmed casualty reports.
Mr Netanyahu said that “Iran has no immunity anywhere. Our forces operate in every sector against the Iranian aggression.” On Sunday, Yoav Galant, a former general and member of Mr Netanyahu’s cabinet, said Israel “will not allow” Iran to use Syria to “transfer balance-changing weapons to Lebanon”.
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