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Hezbollah denies sending drone over Israel

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Powerful Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah denied on Thursday that it had sent a drone over Israel, hours after the Israeli air force said it shot down an unmanned aircraft off the country's northern coast.

"Hezbollah denies sending any unmanned drone towards occupied Palestine," the movement's television channel Al-Manar said, without elaborating.

Israel's deputy defence minister earlier put the blame squarely on Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has previously claimed responsibility for drone infiltrations, most recently on October 7.

"An unmanned aircraft (UAV) was identified approaching the coast of Israel and was successfully intercepted by IAF aircraft five nautical miles off the coast of Haifa at approximately 2:00 pm (1100 GMT) today," the military said.

The incident took place as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was flying to attend a ceremony in the Druze village of Julis, with the helicopter briefly landing after he received the news.

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

Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told reporters the drone had been identified moving down the Lebanese coast before reaching Israeli airspace.

"A little after 1:00 pm, our aerial defence system identified (a drone) moving from north to south along the coast of Lebanon," he said.

"Aircraft, helicopters and combat airplanes were alerted to the area and after confirmation that it was an unfriendly aircraft, they were approved to shoot it down."

But despite widespread reports blaming Hezbollah, Lerner was cautious, saying the incident was still being investigated.

"We don't know where the aircraft was coming from and where it was actually going," he said, adding that the navy was "searching for the remains of the UAV" as part of the probe.

But Deputy Defence Minister Danny Danon said it was clear that the Lebanese Shiite movement was behind the attack.

"We're talking about another attempt by Hezbollah to send an unmanned drone into Israeli territory," he told army radio, describing it as "another attempt to destabilise the Middle East."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130425/hezbollah-denies-sending-drone-over-israel-1