Lebanon vows to defend itself after Israeli drone strikes

Wave of Israeli attacks prompts threats of retaliatory strikes from Teheran and Hizbullah

Israeli soldiers patrolling near the northern Israeli town of Avivim, close to the border with Lebanon.  Photograph: Jalaa Marey/AFP/Getty

Israeli soldiers patrolling near the northern Israeli town of Avivim, close to the border with Lebanon. Photograph: Jalaa Marey/AFP/Getty

 

Lebanon’s president Michel Aoun has said his country has a right to defend itself after Israeli drone strikes that he said were akin to a “declaration of war”.

Iran and Hizbullah in Lebanon had earlier threatened to retaliate after a series of air strikes attributed to Israel across the Middle East, prompting Israeli forces to go on heightened alert, fearing reprisal attacks.

On Sunday, Israel admitted to attacking pro-Iranian forces in Syria, claiming they were about to launch explosive-laden drones at targets in northern Israel. Five people were reportedly killed in that strike, including two members of the pro-Iranian Lebanese Shia Hizbullah and an Iranian.

Hours later, two drones, believed to be Israeli, exploded over the Dahiya neighbourhood of Beirut, a Hizbullah stronghold.

On Sunday an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) destroyed two vehicles in Iraq, near the Syrian border, killing six people, including the senior commander of the militia of Hizbullah battalions in Iraq. Baghdad blamed Israel.

Last week an air strike deep in Iraq targeting pro-Iranian Shia militia and rocket-storage facilities was also attributed to Israel and in the early hours of Monday morning Israel was reportedly behind another air attack, this time targeting Palestinian militants on the Syrian-Lebanese border.

The wave of brazen Israeli attacks prompted threats of retaliatory strikes from Teheran and Hizbullah.

“These insane operations are absolutely the last throes of the Zionist regime,” wrote Iranian Quds Force commander Maj Gen Qasem Soleimani on his Twitter page, in response to the Israeli air strike on Syria.

According to Israel, it was Maj Gen Soleimani who personally oversaw the training, funding and preparation for the thwarted drone attack.

Red line

Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said Israel has crossed a red line and that, from now on, his organisation would not hesitate to down Israeli UAVs the moment they enter Lebanese airspace.

He also threatened to attack Israel from Lebanese territory, warning that the rules of the game that Israel grew accustomed to in the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War no longer apply.

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu vowed that Israel will continue its pre-emptive strikes.

“If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first,” he said, quoting a Biblical passage. “Any country that permits its territory to be used for attacks against Israel will suffer the consequences.”

An Israeli defence official expressed concern that the events in the north will exacerbate the activity in Gaza and the West Bank, prompting fears of a general escalation. The Israeli assessment is that Iran and its proxies will search for any way possible to cause harm to Israel around the world.

Opposition politicians criticised Mr Netanyahu for breaking Israel’s traditional policy of opacity and claiming responsibility for the Syria attack, saying it was a clear bid to boost his popularity, three weeks ahead of the September 17th election.

They argued that the bragging and the public assumption of responsibility are gratuitous, don’t yield any benefit, and only serve to stir emotions and to create scores to be settled among Israel’s enemies.