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.”