Lebanon: IDF drones that crashed in Beirut were on attack mission
Lebanese defense minister says investigations show UAVs - one carrying explosives - took off from gunboats in Mediterranean on Aug. 25 before one crashed on roof of Hezbollah media office in Beirut and the second came down nearby less than an hour later
BEIRUT - A Lebanese government investigation has concluded that two Israeli drones that crashed in the Lebanese capital last month were on an attack mission, one of them armed with 4.5 kilograms of explosives.
Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab said Thursday that investigations show the drones took off from gunboats in the Mediterranean Sea on August 25 before one drone crashed on the roof of the media office of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah organization in southern Beirut.
The other exploded and crashed into a nearby plot 42 minutes later, he said.
Speaking at a press conference in Beirut, Bou Saab said it was "the most dangerous act of aggression by Israel" since its 2006 war with Hezbollah.
"It is clear that Israel wanted to change the rules of engagement with Lebanon. It was the first time we see drones carrying explosives fly over the airport, endangering civil aviation and commercial flights and explode in the streets of Lebanon," he said.
Bou Saab described a sophisticated military mission involving three other unmanned aerial vehicles controlling the attack drones controlling from above.
He said it was unclear what the attack's target was, but it was clear they were not on an intelligence mission.
Journalists were shown the drone that crashed, which was described as a "custom made military drone."
The attack raised the potential for conflict amid heightened regional tensions. Israel has not confirmed its involvement, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah of racing to build a missile-production program in Lebanon and vowed to destroy the project.
The Israeli media reported that Israeli drones targeted a Beirut facility housing a "planetary mixer," a large industrial machine that is critical to making missiles. Hezbollah denies it produces missiles in Lebanon.
Lebanon has complained to the United Nations about Israeli aircraft regularly violating its airspace in recent years.
Israel has grown alarmed by the rising influence of its regional foe Iran during the war in neighboring Syria, where Tehran and Hezbollah provide military help to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Israel says its air force has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria against what it calls Iranian targets and arms transfers to Hezbollah.
Reuters contributed to this report