The Lebanese military said it opened fire on three Israeli drones that entered the country’s airspace on Wednesday night, prompting the aircraft to return to Israeli territory.
The Israel Defense Forces largely confirmed the Lebanese Armed Forces’ claims, but would not comment on where the drones had been flying at the time of the incident.
“Gunfire was heard from Lebanese territory toward the area where IDF drones were flying. The drones completed their mission, and no damage was caused,” the army said.
According to the LAF, the first Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle entered Lebanese airspace near the village of Adaisseh, across from the Israeli town of Metulla.
“The army confronted it and fired at it, forcing it to retreat,” the LAF wrote in a statement.
A second Israeli drone then flew over the nearby Lebanese village of Kafr Kila. It too fled as it was fired upon. Video footage from the scene shows Lebanese soldiers firing their rifles into the night sky.
The third UAV then entered Lebanese airspace in the same area and was also shot at by Lebanese troops.
The altercation came amid soaring tensions between Israel, Lebanon and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group, following an IDF strike on an Iranian base in Syria that killed two Hezbollah operatives on Saturday night and a drone attack in Beirut early Sunday morning that reportedly targeted two pieces of prized equipment belonging to the Iran-backed organization.
In a fiery speech on Sunday night, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed to blow Israeli UAVs out of the sky if they were to ever cross into Lebanese airspace.
“The time — in which Israeli planes come and bombard a place in Lebanon and the usurping entity of Palestine remains secure — has ended,” he said. “From now on, we will confront the Israeli drones in Lebanon’s skies… and we will take action to bring them down.”
Lebanese President Michel Aoun referred to the strike in Beirut as a “declaration of war” by Israel, and the country’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, said his government would be filing an official complaint to the United Nations Security Council over the “clear Israeli violation of Lebanese sovereignty,” the Lebanese news site Naharnet reported.
IDF soldiers in northern Israel have been on high alert this week over fears of a reprisal attack from Hezbollah or another Iranian proxy following Israeli airstrikes against Iran-linked targets and threats against Israel from officials in neighboring countries.
Israel warned Beirut, through US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, that the Lebanese state would be targeted by the IDF if Hezbollah is allowed to carry out attacks from Lebanese territory.
In general, Israeli officials considers the Lebanese government to be complicit in Hezbollah’s actions in the country, as it does not make a significant effort to curb the group’s activities and, according to the IDF, actively cooperates with the Iran-backed terrorist militia along the border with Israel.