Analysts speculate UAVs that crashed in Beirut were Iranian, not Israeli

Analysts speculate UAVs that crashed in Beirut were Iranian, not Israeli

Israeli military officially mum on origins of the quadcopter-style drones found in Lebanese capital, but experts say they seem to be Iranian models

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

A drone that crashed in the Lebanese capital of Beirut on August 25, 2019. (Lebanese state media)
A drone that crashed in the Lebanese capital of Beirut on August 25, 2019. (Lebanese state media)

The release of photographs of a drone that crashed in the Lebanese capital Beirut early Sunday morning cast doubt on the claim by the Hezbollah terror group that the craft belonged to the Israeli military, with some Israeli analysts speculating that the unmanned aerial vehicle was in fact an Iranian model.

In the predawn hours of Sunday morning, one UAV exploded in the air outside the offices of the Iran-backed Hezbollah, causing damage to the building. A second crashed nearby and was retrieved by the terror group.

Both Hezbollah and the Lebanese military claimed the drones were sent by Israel.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri later condemned Israel, saying the UAVs were a “blatant attack on Lebanon’s sovereignty” and “forms a threat to regional stability and an attempt to push the situation towards more tension.”

A poster of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is seen amid other damage inside the terror group’s media office in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon on August 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Later that afternoon, official Lebanese state media released a photograph of the quadcopter-style UAV that crashed. It appears to be a civilian drone with extremely limited range that the Israeli military would likely be unable or uninterested in using for a sensitive operation like conducting reconnaissance in a Hezbollah stronghold.

Several well-connected Israeli commentators, including a former IDF general, said the drones appeared to be of an Iranian origin.

The Israel Defense Forces refused to publicly comment on the incident, saying it does not comment on “foreign reports.”

Former head of Military Intelligence Amos Yadlin, who now heads the esteemed Institute for National Security Studies think tank, speculated that the drone may have been part of a plot by Tehran to send armed drones into northern Israel to bomb military installations and national infrastructure, an attack that the IDF said it foiled late Saturday night with a series of airstrikes in Syria.

Broken windows are seen on the 11-floor building that houses the media office of Hezbollah in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, August 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

“Were Iranian drones prevented from taking off from the Beirut area?” Yadlin wrote on Twitter.

The former intelligence chief said it appeared as though both Israel and Iran were looking to calm the situation following the late-night airstrikes.

A Hezbollah spokesman said the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, would comment on the incident further in a speech scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday.

IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, said Israel on Saturday night conducted airstrikes in Syria to thwart a plan by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Al Quds Force, working with allied Shiite militias, to send a number of “killer drones” into Israel.

Israeli forces in the north have been put on high alert amid fears of a reprisal attack, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held an emergency meeting with defense officials overnight amid the heightened tensions.

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