Hezbollah’s attack on an Israeli drone flying over southern Lebanon Thursday was part of an effort to “clean up the Lebanese airspace from Israeli violations” and employed a weapon the Israeli military thought the group “would not dare to use,” leader Hassan Nasrallah said Friday.
The head of the Iran-backed terror organization did not specify what weapon was fired at the Israeli aircraft. Officials in both countries have said it was an anti-aircraft missile.
Hezbollah initially claimed the drone was shot down over the Lebanese village of Nabatieh. But the Israel Defense Forces denied the claim, saying the aircraft did not sustain any damage, and Hezbollah later said it had simply forced the aircraft to leave the area.
“Our aim is to clean up the Lebanese airspace from Israeli violations,” Nasrallah said in his Friday speech.
He claimed Israel had thought “the resistance would not dare to use this type of weapon, but the resistance proved to have the courage to use them.”
Earlier in October, a small IDF drone was shot down over southern Lebanon. The IDF said the aircraft was conducting “routine operations to secure the border” when it crashed inside Lebanese territory. In September, a similar drone crashed in southern Lebanon. Then too Hezbollah claimed to have shot it down.
Hezbollah vowed to start shooting down Israeli spy drones after a drone attack on the terror group’s Beirut stronghold in late August, which it blamed on Israel.
Nasrallah said on Friday that Hezbollah would continue to show strength towards Israel, and that it was not influenced by internal unrest, after weeks of anti-government protests in Lebanon.
On Tuesday, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri submitted his government’s resignation in response to mass demonstrations for radical political change.
The unprecedented popular push to remove a political class seen as corrupt, incompetent and sectarian, had kept the country on lockdown since October 17.
Nasrallah said he was against the resignation over concerns it might take a long time before a new cabinet is formed. He added that a government should be formed quickly.
“The first thing that the new government should do is to listen to what the people want,” Nasrallah said. He added that once formed, the government’s priority should be to “build confidence with the people because this confidence is missing.”
And while he said it was the right of Lebanese to protest, he warned there were those who sought merely to sow chaos and cause internal conflict.
He also criticized the description of the outgoing government in some protest quarters as “a Hezbollah government,” saying the group “was not influential in this government or in previous governments, and its members did not get senior ministerial positions.” He said such accusations were only intended to antagonize public opinion.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.