Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hezbollah of sending the drone that breached Israeli airspace this weekend.
The unmanned aircraft entered Israel via the Gaza Strip on Saturday morning. By 10 a.m., it was shot down by a team of F-16 jets that had been mobilized from the Israeli Air Force base in the Negev.
Since then, there has been widespread speculation as to the origin of the drone. Hezbollah was an early suspect; on Monday, Israeli lawmaker Miri Regev said on her Twitter feed that the craft was “an Iranian drone that was launched by Hezbollah."
According to the Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu was touring Israel’s southern security fence on Thursday, when he said the military had “thwarted Hezbollah’s attempt over the weekend” to send the drone, adding that Israel would “act with determination to defend its borders at sea, on air and land.”
Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group and political party that controls much of Southern Lebanon, is backed by Iran. The group launched armed drones into Israel six years ago, but those were repelled by Israel.
If Hezbollah is also responsible for Saturday’s drone, which flew in from the southeast and was seen as an embarrassing security breach for Israel, it signifies a marked advancement in the group’s military technology capabilities.
This raises suspicions about possible Iranian involvement. Tehran officials have long called for the destruction of Israel, and Iran is the target of bellicose rhetoric from Netanyahu, who favors a military strike against the Islamic Republic to interrupt its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.
But Iranian officials have not claimed any association with the operation that sent a drone into Israel’s airspace on Saturday. Jamaluddin Aberoumand, a deputy coordinator for Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, told Reuters on Monday only that “The Zionist regime [Israel] has many enemies.”
To counter the threat of drone surveillance or attacks, Israel deployed a missile defense battery to a mountainside near Haifa on Monday. The installment is believed to be capable of intercepting drones.