Israel loses second drone in 2 days, this time in Gaza

Published 10.09.2019 11:41

An Israeli drone fell in the Gaza Strip on Monday night, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed on Tuesday.

In a statement, the IDF said the drone fell in the southern Gaza Strip in Rafah area. It further said the incident was under investigation.

Israel uses drones for surveillance and conducting attacks.

Earlier quoting sources in Gaza, Palestinian media claimed that Hamas had spotted the drone and downed it. They also said that Hamas was in possession of the drone.

Meanwhile, Israeli army also said Tuesday that Israeli forces detained 17 Palestinians in overnight raids carried out across the occupied West Bank.

The statement said the individuals were arrested for "suspected involvement in popular terror activities", without elaborating about the nature of the activities.

The Israeli army conducts frequent raids across the West Bank -- including occupied East Jerusalem -- on the pretext of searching and detaining "wanted" Palestinians.

According to Palestinian figures, roughly 5,500 Palestinians -- including a number of women and children -- are currently languishing in Israeli detention centers.

On Monday, Lebanon's Hezbollah had also announced that it also brought down an Israeli drone in the southern border area.

The IDF later confirmed that an army drone had fallen outside Lebanon's southern town of Ramyah during routine activity.

Hezbollah claimed that it intercepted the Israeli UAV with appropriate weapons, as it crossed the border from Israel and it is now in their hands.

Later Monday, the Israeli army said rockets had been fired from Syria but failed to reach their targets.

Hezbollah had issued a statement saying that some of its fighters "confronted with the appropriate weapons an Israeli drone" heading towards the Lebanese border village of Ramyeh overnight.

The Shiite militant group said it subsequently retrieved the device, but did not provide pictures.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah chief said late Monday during an event marking a Shiite religious holiday that his movement and Iran were engaged in a "great battle" against Israel and the United States.

"Tonight and tomorrow we will tell (U.S. President Donald) Trump and (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu that we are a nation and nothing affects our will -- not siege, sanction, poverty or hunger."

Monday's incident was part of an escalation between the two foes that started on August 24 when an Israeli strike killed two Hezbollah operatives in Syria. The operation was followed hours later by what Hezbollah described as an Israeli drone attack on its Beirut stronghold.

That led to an escalation in rhetoric and heightened fears of all-out conflict between Hezbollah and Israel whose main allies, Iran and the United States respectively, are also at loggerheads.

On September 1, Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles at an Israeli military vehicle and battalion headquarters and Israel responded with a salvo of artillery shells.

Analysts said the cross-border exchange, which caused no injuries, was a highly choreographed move aimed at flexing muscles without igniting war.

Hezbollah had warned last week that its actions were only a response to the late August strike in Syria and not to the drone incident in Beirut, for which separate retaliation was to come.

Sources close to the organization had said its fighters would down an Israeli drone over Lebanon at the first opportunity.

The Britain-based Observatory reported that, probably moments later, a strike by an unidentified aircraft killed 18 pro-Iranian fighters in eastern Syria.

The attack consisted of "five missiles targeting an Iranian compound, an ammunition depot and three other military positions", the Observatory said, adding that Iranians were among the dead.

The Sound and Pictures, a local activist collective in eastern Syria, gave a higher death toll, saying 21 fighters were killed and 36 wounded. The collective said the strikes targeted positions belonging to Iranian militias and those of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (Hashd al-Shaabi), a mostly Iran-backed Shiite militia, but did not say who the dead and wounded were.

The strike took place in the region of Albu Kamal, a town which lies along the Euphrates, on Syria's eastern border with Iraq.

Hezbollah military media quoted a "security source in Syria" accusing Israel of launching the attack, although there was no official statement from Damascus.

The source said that the strike hit an under-construction base belonging to the Syrian army and its allies. He added that the base was empty, and therefore the attack did not cause any casualties.

A Syrian security official cited by the regime-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said the Israeli planes targeted a military camp that was being set up by the Syrian army and its allies. It said the structure was deserted at the time and the strike did not cause any casualties, contrary to the reports.

The official claimed the planes used Jordanian airspace and were "aided" by American forces stationed at the Tanf garrison, near Syria's eastern border with Jordan. "We hold the Americans and Israelis responsible for these acts of aggression which cross the red lines," said the official, who was not named.

Neither Israel nor the U.S.-led coalition, which carries out airstrikes in the area against jihadist sleeper cells, commented on the incident.

Albu Kamal lies in Deir El-Zour province which covers much of Syria's remote eastern desert, where the Daesh terrorist group's so-called "caliphate" made its last stand this year.

Control of the area is split between U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and groups aligned with the Damascus regime, which is supported by Iran and Russia.

In June 2018, strikes near the Iraqi border killed 55 pro-regime forces, mostly Syrians and Iraqis.

An Israeli military statement said Monday that rockets had been fired from Syria but all failed to hit Israeli territory.

"The rockets were launched from the outskirts of Damascus by Shiite militia operatives operating under the Iranian Quds Force," it said.

The force is the elite branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guards and is commanded by Qassem Soleimani, the mastermind of Tehran's military strategy in the region.

Israel, which has vowed to keep weakening Iran so long as it continues to develop weapons that threaten the Jewish state, has launched attacks against a variety of targets.

It has carried out operations against Iranian forces and Tehran's proxies in Lebanon, across Syria and in Iraq.

After Monday's drone downing a senior US official visiting Beirut underlined the "importance" of preserving security in Lebanon, a US embassy statement said.

"Assistant Secretary of Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker met Prime Minister Saad Hariri... (and) reaffirmed the importance of preserving Lebanon's security, stability, and sovereignty," the statement said.

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