Gunfire has erupted over southern Lebanon amid soaring tensions after Lebanon accused Israel of launching aggression tantamount to “a declaration of war” – in the words of President Michel Aoun, in reference to the twin Israeli drone attack on Hezbollah offices in south Beirut the past weekend.
Specifically on Wednesday the Lebanese army is reported to have opened fire on up to three “Israeli reconnaissance drones” for violating the country’s airspace, according to the official National News Agency.
Reuters also reports that troops initially opened fire on the unmanned vehicles with M16 assault rifles, forcing the drones to return to Israeli airspace.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) appear to have confirmed the incident, but didn’t specify whether the drones violated Lebanese airspace.
“Gunfire was heard from Lebanese territory toward the area where IDF drones were flying. The drones completed their mission, and no damage was caused,” the Israeli army said.
The Lebanese Air Force (LAF) mentioned three UAVs appearing near the village of Adaisseh, as well as in the vicinity of Kafr Kila, near the border with Israel. “The army confronted it and fired at it, forcing it to retreat,” the LAF said in a statement.
Some Arab regional media actually claimed one or more of the drones were destroyed by the gunfire, but it remains unclear.
— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) August 28, 2019
There are significant fears that Lebanon and Israel could be barreling toward a major conflict similar to the 2006 war, also after on Sunday a separate Israeli drone strike (following the south Beirut incident) reached deep into Lebanon, killing a PFLP-GC leader in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley (a Palestinian paramilitary group).
Both the national army and Hezbollah have vowed to shoot down any unauthorized aircraft in violation of Lebanese airspace, despite Israel over the past couple years violating it frequently to conduct air raids on targets in Syria.
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