THU 24 - 10 - 2019
Aug 29, 2019
The Daily Star
Lebanese Army fires at Israeli drones as leaders rally support
Timour Azhari| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Lebanese Army soldiers Wednesday evening opened fire multiple times on Israeli drones that crossed into southern Lebanon just days after an Israeli drone attack on Beirut’s southern suburbs raised the specter of war.
An Army source told The Daily Star that there were previous orders in place to shoot at Israeli drones. “When the Army is able to down a drone, it shoots at it, when it can’t, it doesn’t shoot,” the source said.
“These small drones fly low and so we are able to shoot at them. The problem is they’re very small, so you need to be extremely accurate to hit them,” the source added.
The Lebanese Army said it opened fire at three Israeli drones near the border in south Lebanon, above the Marjayoun town of Adaisseh.
According to an initial statement from the Army, a first Israeli drone “violated Lebanese airspace at 7:35 p.m. and hovered above a Lebanese Army position in Adaisseh.”
“The Army shot at it forcing it to return back to [Palestinian territories],” the statement said.
Videos shared on social media showed Army soldiers firing assault rifles at a drone in the night sky.
A second statement said that two additional Israeli drones flew over the Army position in Adaisseh at 8:50 p.m., leading soldiers to “confront them with appropriate weapons fire.”
The Israeli Army’s Arabic-language spokesperson Avichay Adraee confirmed that gunfire had been heard from inside Lebanese territory in an area where Israeli drones were flying.
“The drones completed their mission and there was no damage,” Adraee said via Twitter.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Saad Hariri had solicited international support to prevent the outbreak of a new conflagration between Israel and Hezbollah, after the group vowed to retaliate against the apparent attack on its stronghold in Beirut’s southern suburbs over the weekend. President Michel Aoun has called the incident an “act of war,” and the Higher Defense Council Tuesday asserted Lebanon’s right to defend itself against any Israeli attack.
Israel has not commented on the attack near Beirut overnight Sunday.
A regional security source told Reuters that the attack was aimed at Hezbollah’s alleged precision-missile manufacturing capabilities.
“Israel’s message to Hezbollah here, writ large, was: Keep manufacturing, and we will keep hitting you.”
Asked what would happen if Hezbollah escalates after responding, the official told Reuters: “I imagine that Israel would then step up its strikes and wipe out this capability altogether. The details of these sites are known. The ball would now appear to be in Hezbollah’s court.”
Hariri Wednesday held a meeting with ambassadors of Arab countries, aimed at shoring up diplomatic support for Lebanon amid the spiraling tensions with Israel. The meeting included representatives of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Morocco, Sudan, Algeria, Iraq, Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan and Kuwait, while Hariri later met separately with the Qatari ambassador.
“We as Arab countries stated our support and attachment to the security and stability of Lebanon and the measures or policies it takes to preserve its security, stability and territorial integrity.” Kuwaiti Ambassador to Lebanon Abdul-Aal al-Kinai said following the meeting.
Hariri overnight Tuesday had asked European Union diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini to help put an end to near-daily breaches of Lebanese sovereignty, which violate U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.
That resolution ended the devastating 34-day war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006 that saw over 1,200 Lebanese killed, most of them civilians.
Hariri called for the European Union’s support in easing tensions in the region - a message he has also conveyed, in separate telephone calls, to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo since the attack.
As fears of a new conflagration with Israel rise, Hezbollah officials and those allied with the group said that the group would definitely retaliate, but did not want all-out war.
Hezbollah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem ruled out “that the atmosphere is one of war, it is one of a response to an attack,” in an interview with Russia Today.
Deputy Parliament Speaker Elie Ferzli also ruled out the possibility of a new war but said there would be a response to the attack. “A response is inevitable, but the timing depends on the calculations of the battle and conditions,” Elie Ferzli told Voice of Lebanon (93.3FM). “I don’t think there will be a new war,” he added.
In the meantime, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon continued to urge both sides to exercise “maximum restraint, both in action and in words,” according to its spokesperson Andrea Tenenti.
Tenenti called upon both Lebanon and Israel to make use of UNIFIL’s coordination mechanism “to raise any issue of importance in the current tense environment.”
The Lebanese Army filed a complaint with UNFIL Wednesday over the fall of four flare bombs at the western edge of Shebaa, which lies just north of the southern border, the state-run National News Agency reported.
Pictures circulated on social media Monday night purported to show a number of Israeli flares near Shebaa. The Army said it considered the incident an “unjustified violation of [Lebanese] territory.” The bombs fell 400 to 800 meters north of the border line, according to the NNA.
Nine violations of Lebanese airspace were recorded by the Army between the night of Aug. 27 and Aug. 28, according to a statement on the Army website, which said they were perpetrated by Israeli “reconnaissance aircraft.” Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has said the group would seek to down Israeli drones that overfly Lebanon, based on a case-by-case evaluation.
Speaker Nabih Berri, a close ally of Hezbollah, told MPs during a weekly meeting that national consensus in condemnation of “the Israeli aggression on Lebanon was the first sign of victory on the level of national unity.”
He also praised President Michel Aoun’s and Hariri’s positions on the issue and said it proved the worthiness of the so-called “tripartite equation of the Army, the people and the resistance.”
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