Israel PM calls Lebanon drone incident 'extremely grave'


An Israeli navy vessel and helicopter search for the wreckage of a drone which was shot down by the air force off Israel's northern coast on April 25, 2013. The unmanned drone was sent by Hezbollah, deputy defence minister Danny Danon told army radio.



JERUSALEM — The Israeli Air Force says it has shot down an unmanned aircraft off the coast of Haifa on Thursday. It said the drone had flown south from Lebanon.

A military source told the Times of Israel the aircraft was apparently sent by Hezbollah.

However, Hezbollah TV said the militant group denies sending the drone, the Associated Press reported.

Agence France-Presse also confirmed Hezbollah's denial of the drone.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "I see this attempt to breach our borders as extremely grave. We will continue to do whatever we must to protect the security of Israel's citizens."

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said, "We’ll respond where we find fit, but there will be a response," media reported.

The drone, which was identified shortly after 1p.m. flying along the coast line, was engaged by a squadron of F-16s and helicopters, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Israel Defense Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said the drone was "a relatively small" and flying at 6000 feet. It was engaged by an IAF F-16 using air-to-air missiles after confirmation that it was "not a friendly aircraft." An investigation is underway.

Israeli naval vessels were searching for wreckage of the drone. Ynet News reported, "The army noted that the downed drone was relatively small, and it remains unclear whether it was carrying explosives, like other attack drones in Hezbollah's possession."

This is the second time in the past seven months that a drone from Lebanon has been intercepted in Israeli air space. The previous incident involved an unmanned aircraft sent by Hezbollah that was shot down in southern Israel last October.