Israel’s army is looking into the origin and purpose of an unmanned aerial vehicle that was shot down yesterday over Israeli territory, the country’s military said after a report that the drone was Hezbollah’s.
Israel Radio today cited unidentified Israeli army officials as saying the Lebanese Shiite Muslim group was responsible for the aircraft. Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, is considered a terrorist group by the U.S. and Israel. Israel’s forces shot down the drone after it entered Israeli airspace from the Mediterranean Sea.
“The event is under investigation to check where the UAV came from and what its mission was,” Major Arye Shalicar, an army spokesman, said by phone in response to the radio report. He declined to comment on the Israel Radio report.
The incident comes amid tensions over the nuclear program of Shiite-led Iran, which doesn’t recognize Israel as a legitimate nation. Iran denies allegations by the U.S., Israel and many of their allies that it may be trying to develop atomic weapons.
Soldiers were searching the Negev desert to locate the drone’s wreckage and determine its origin, Army spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich said yesterday.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel views the violation of its airspace “very gravely” and will consider its reaction.
Iran in December televised images of a U.S. drone used for gathering intelligence that came down in Iranian territory. Last month, the Persian Gulf nation said it would equip its own drones with missiles.
Israel has a nuclear facility in the Negev desert town of Dimona that it says is for research. The country’s policy is to neither confirm nor deny possession of nuclear arms.