Israel says downed 3 Hezbollah drones on way to offshore gas field
The Israeli army on Saturday said it intercepted three drones launched by Hezbollah from Lebanon that were headed towards an offshore gas field in the Mediterranean, an announcement that was later confirmed by Hezbollah.
"Three hostile drones approaching the airspace in Israel's economic waters have been intercepted," the army said in a statement, adding that the drones were headed towards the Karish gas field.
The drones were shot down by a fighter jet and a navy missile ship, the Israeli army added.
"The UAVs were identified by detection systems and monitored by ground control units throughout their flight. The UAVs were identified at an early stage and intercepted at the optimal operational point," it said.
It added that an initial inquiry suggests that "the UAVs did not pose any imminent threat."
Noting that "the UAVs were intercepted over the Mediterranean Sea," the Israeli army added that "the detection and alert systems functioned as required."
"This embodies the concept of multi-layered air defense in the best possible manner in unison with the professional activities of the soldiers at sea and in the air who successfully carried out the defensive mission," the Israeli army boasted.
The drones were not armed and did not pose a risk, Israeli military sources said.
One drone was intercepted by a fighter jet and the other two by a warship, the sources added.
In a statement, Hezbollah said it launched "three unarmed drones" towards "the disputed area in the Karish field for reconnaissance missions."
"The mission was accomplished and the message has been sent," it added, without mentioning any Israeli interception.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz earlier said that "Hezbollah is undermining the Lebanese state's ability to reach a sea border agreement," warning that Israel "has the right to respond to any harm attempt."
Lebanon condemned Israel last month when a vessel operated by London-listed Greek energy firm Energean entered the Karish field.
Israel claims that the field lies in its waters and is not part of the disputed area subject to ongoing negotiations on the maritime border.
Hezbollah warned Energean against proceeding with its activities.
Lebanon and Israel resumed negotiations on their maritime border in 2020, but the process was stalled by Beirut's claim that the map used by the United Nations in the talks needed modifying.
Lebanon initially demanded 860 square kilometers of waters it said were in dispute but then asked for an additional 1,430 square kilometers, including part of the Karish field.
Israel fought a devastating war with Hezbollah in 2006 and regards the Iran-backed group as one of its principal enemies.