Lebanon concludes Israeli drones were on attack mission

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Lebanese forces soldiers display an Israeli drone that was captured after falling in a southern Beirut suburb on September 19, 2019. (AFP)
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Lebanese Minister of Defence Elias Bou Saab shows a box that he alleged carried explosives in an Israeli captured drone that fell over a Beirut suburb on September 19, 2019. (AFP)
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Lebanese forces soldiers carry an Israeli drone that was captured after falling in a southern Beirut suburb on September 19, 2019. (AFP)
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An Israeli drone that crashed in southern Beirut last month is on display during a press conference to announce the results of an investigation into the incident on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. (AP)
Updated 20 September 2019

Lebanon concludes Israeli drones were on attack mission

  • This proves Israel changed the rules of engagement with Lebanon: Minister

BEIRUT: Two Israeli drones, one loaded with explosives, that crashed in Beirut last month were on an “attack” mission, the Lebanese government revealed on Thursday.

Announcing the outcome of an investigation into the incident, Lebanese Minister of National Defense Elias Bou Saab described it as “the most dangerous” act of aggression from Israel since its war with Hezbollah in July 2006.

The drones that crashed in southern suburbs of the capital on the night of Aug. 24-25 were “a sophisticated military production that aimed to attack Beirut as they crossed its airport’s airspace,” the minister said. 

“This proves that Israel changed the rules of engagement with Lebanon.”

During a press conference, Bou Saab used documents and pictures to explain the findings of the probe carried out by the Lebanese army.

He said that the two aircraft “departed from the Habonim Airfield in Israel and could be controlled via UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle). The breach not only included two drones, but several other small UAV aircraft ready for propulsion.

“Several aircraft were in Lebanese airspace at the time, controlling the two drones. One of the two drones was carrying 4.5 kilograms of plastic explosives, while the second one had four wings and eight engines. The second drone followed the first to the southern suburbs of Beirut after 42 minutes,” he said.

The minister confirmed that the aim of the drones’ mission was to attack, not just to tape surveillance footage. “The Israeli aggressions became of another kind and this is a serious change in the rules of engagement.”

He pointed out that there had been “480 Israeli violations of the resolution 1701 (UN Security Council resolution to resolve the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict) within the last two months, the most serious of which has been the explosives-loaded drones that passed over Beirut airport, endangering air traffic, and then headed toward the capital’s southern suburbs.”

The Lebanese army received the remains of the two drones from Hezbollah on Aug. 30, after conducting a survey of the site of the attack hours after it had happened.

Hezbollah anticipated the outcome of the Lebanese army’s investigation by announcing on Aug. 27 the results of its own probe.

The party said: “Specialized experts in Hezbollah’s military division dismantled the first drone that crashed and found that it contained explosives wrapped and insulated in a highly technical manner. The explosive weighted 5.5 kilograms and contained type C4 explosive materials.”

Hezbollah believed at the time that the aim of the two drones “was not to tape footage, but they were dedicated for the execution of bombings.”


‘Jury still out’ on new Lebanon government, says rights chief

Updated 11 min 30 sec ago

‘Jury still out’ on new Lebanon government, says rights chief

  • The executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, said it was too early to say if the new government would be any better than its predecessor
  • Kenneth Roth: We’ve seen in Lebanon a government that can’t even clean up the garbage, they can’t deliver electricity, they can’t provide the most basic services

DAVOS: The “jury is still out” on whether the new government in Lebanon will be any different to the old one, the head of Human Rights Watch told Arab News on Friday.

Lebanon has been convulsed by demonstrations since October, when people took to the streets to protest against corruption, unemployment, a lack of basic services and economic problems. Political veteran Saad Hariri resigned as prime minister so that a new cabinet could be formed, but it took time to assemble a coalition.

The executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, said it was too early to say if the new government would be any better than its predecessor. He warned, however, that the early signs were not promising.

“We’ve seen in Lebanon a government that can’t even clean up the garbage, they can’t deliver electricity, they can’t provide the most basic services,” Roth told Arab News on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos. “It’s not at all clear that the more technocratic government that has been put in place is going to be responsive to the needs of the people and able to deliver. The jury is still out on that. While the government has responded to the protesters’ demand on a political level by changing personnel, the security forces on the ground have often responded violently, and in repeated instances used excessive force rather than respect the rights of the protesters to petition their government to appeal for a government that is more respectful of their needs and accountable to their desires.”

According to Amnesty International, Lebanese security forces’ unlawful use of rubber bullets last weekend left at least 409 protesters injured, some seriously, in the most violent weekend since the protests began on Oct. 17.

“The protesters in Lebanon are upset by what they see as a dysfunctional and unaccountable government, I mean they are the most basic services that are not being provided,” Roth said, adding that the government was getting “increasingly intolerant.”

He also expressed concern about the plight of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The rights’ group says there are around 1.5 million of them in the country and that 74 percent lack legal status. “Authorities heightened calls for the return of refugees in 2018 and municipalities have forcibly evicted thousands of refugees,” the group said in a report.

“Syrian refugees obviously do impose a burden on Lebanon, but nonetheless there are legal obligations and the government really led by President (Michel) Aoun rather than former Prime Minister Hariri has been trying to make life more miserable for the refugees in the hope of forcing them back to Syria despite the fact that Syria remains completely unsafe,” Roth said.

Aoun and his son-in-law, former foreign minister Gebran Bassil, head the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) which has the biggest parliamentary bloc. Aoun and Bassil have repeatedly claimed that Syria is now a safe and peaceful country and that the refugees should go back.

“It is not safe to force anybody back, the Lebanese government knows this in the sense that they are not putting guns to people’s heads and forcing them back, but they’re doing the metaphorical equivalent by making life so miserable that many refugees feel that despite the risks to their lives, they have to go back to Syria because there’s nothing for them in Lebanon,” Roth added.