- The Israeli army said one of its drones crashed into Lebanese territory on Sunday, without specifying how.
- In several speeches over the past two weeks, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah reiterated his intention to target Israeli drones in a manner that does not exhaust his "air defense capabilities."
- Israel has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrilla group said on Monday it had shot down an Israeli drone as it crossed Lebanon’s southern border, a week after a limited exchange of fire. In light of the tense situation in the region, unknown warplanes targeted the positions of Iranian forces and armed militants loyal to them in the far east of Syria on Monday, killing 18 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Israeli army announced on Monday morning a third incident that rockets were fired from Syria into Israel, without reaching its target, accusing Iranian forces of launching them. In Lebanon, Hezbollah, which had vowed to target Israeli drones that usually violate Lebanese airspace, declared that “the Islamic Resistance Mujahideen confronted the weapons of an Israeli drone as it crossed the Palestinian-Lebanese border towards the southern town of Ramia.”
The Israeli army said one of its drones crashed into Lebanese territory on Sunday, without specifying how. A spokesman confirmed there was “no risk of information breach” if the plane was brought under control. The developments come after a week of limited tension in the Lebanese-Israeli border on September 1, with Hezbollah announcing the destruction of an Israeli military vehicle across the border.
The Israeli army said the group fired three anti-tank rockets at an Israeli military base. The army responded by firing about 100 shells at the edge of Lebanese border villages. Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, said it was in retaliation for the killing of two of its members overnight on August 24-25, in an Israeli raid near Damascus, and for an attack by two drones that Israel accused of carrying out in the southern suburbs, but said it had failed to achieve its goal.
In several speeches over the past two weeks, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah also reiterated his intention to target Israeli drones in a manner that does not exhaust his “air defense capabilities.” The day after the exchange of fire on the border, Nasrallah announced that the first round of the response ended, vowing to shoot down the drones, and warned that his party had no “red lines” in the face of Israel, which threatened to target if it launched an attack against his fighters and against Lebanon.
In 2015 and 2016, Hezbollah targeted Israeli military vehicles in the occupied Shebaa Farms, in retaliation for Israeli raids on its fighters in Syria. Despite developments near the border last week, there has been no intention of a major escalation on both sides.
Hezbollah confirmed that its aim in retaliation for Israel was to stabilize the rules of engagement that Israel violated by attacking the two drones for the first time since the July 2006 war. The war left 1,200 people dead on the Lebanese side, mostly civilians, and more than 160 people on the Israeli side, mostly military personnel. The war ended with the issuance of UN Resolution 1701, which established a cessation of hostilities between Lebanon and Israel.
Analysts believe that Hezbollah and Israel do not want war, but studied their options in the best way to prevent it. Some felt that Hezbollah would carry out its threat to confront Israeli drones without further escalation.
Hezbollah is a key player in Lebanon’s political arena and has a huge arsenal of weapons, including precision missiles that Israel has long warned of, and has been fighting in Syria alongside regime forces openly since 2013. In recent years, Hezbollah and Iranian fighters have been the target of Israeli raids in Syria. Israel has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to establish a military presence there.
At midnight on Monday, the Syrian Observatory reported airstrikes targeting positions of Iranian forces and gunmen loyal to them in the Albukamal area in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, killing 18 members. The Observatory was unable to determine the nationalities of those killed or who carried out the raids.
The governorate of Deir Ezzor is divided between several parties, where regime forces and Iranian fighters control the area west of the Euphrates River, which divides the province into two parts, while the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces control the East Bank. This is not the first time that pro-regime fighters have been targeted in the region, with 55 of them, both Syrians and Iraqis, killed in June 2018 in strikes that a US official said Israel was behind, but the latter declined to comment.
In a third incident, which is not clear if it was related to its predecessors, the IDF announced that “early this morning [Monday] a number of rockets were fired from Syria towards Israel, all of which failed to reach Israeli territory.” Israel has accused “members of the Shiite militia linked to the Quds Force” of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards for firing from the vicinity of Damascus.
Israel has previously accused Iranian forces of firing rockets and drones towards the occupied part of the Syrian Golan Heights. May 2018 witnessed an unprecedented escalation between the two countries. Israel for the first time accused Iran of targeting Syria after firing about 20 rockets against its positions in the occupied Golan.