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Hezbollah Says Exploding Drone Damaged Its Office Near Beirut

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Two drones crashed in the southern suburbs of Beirut overnight, and one exploded, blowing out the windows of a media office belonging to Hezbollah, a spokesman for the group said on Sunday.

Hezbollah said the drones belonged to Israel, but the Israeli military declined to comment on Sunday.

The events in Beirut occurred a day after Israeli warplanes struck targets in Syria where, the Israeli military said, Iran had been preparing to attack Israel using explosive-laden “killer drones.”

The Hezbollah spokesman, Mohammed Afif, said the first drone came down on a roof of the apartment building that houses the group’s media office but did not explode. Less than an hour later, a second drone exploded nearby, shattering the back windows of six floors of the building, including those of the media office.

No one was seriously injured.

The Lebanese Army confirmed that one drone fell and another exploded in the capital’s southern suburbs around 2:30 a.m. local time.

“The army arrived immediately and cordoned off the area where the two drones fell,” the army said in a statement.

During a brief interview in the damaged media office, where the group often meets foreign journalists and other visitors, Mr. Afif said that Hezbollah, a militant group and political party represented in Lebanon’s government, had not shot down either of the drones.

The first appeared to be a surveillance drone and came down on a red-tiled roof extending from a lower floor behind the building, he said. The second drone came less than an hour later and exploded, apparently in midair, near where the first drone had landed. The explosion shattered the building’s windows.

Mr. Afif said that Hezbollah had retrieved the first, undamaged drone and the remains of the second, and that the group would analyze them to establish their mission. One theory was that the first drone had crashed and the second had been dispatched to destroy the first. Another theory was that the first drone had been sent to scope out a target for the second drone to attack.

“Maybe it was looking for a target,” Mr. Afif said. “Was its target the media office? A target nearby? Someone in the same building? A convoy? We don’t know what the target was.”

Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, was scheduled to speak on Sunday evening and was expected to address the issue.

Yaakov Amidror, a former adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and a former military intelligence chief, said on Sunday that he did not know whether the exploding drone in Beirut was Israeli, but that it could have been sent as a message to Hezbollah.

“If it is, it means that Israel decided to show Hezbollah that there is a price” for its actions in Syria, he said, adding, “I’m not sure that this is an Israeli operation.”

The drone crashes in Beirut, in an area where Hezbollah holds sway, come at a time of heightened tensions across the region between the United States and its regional allies on one side and Iran and the local forces it backs on the other.

So far, the struggle has played out mostly through the diversion of oil tankers, drone attacks, covert support to militant groups and strikes on military bases said to be used by the Iranians.

A senior commander for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps denied on Sunday that Israel had bombed Iranian targets in Syria, according to the semiofficial ILNA news agency.

“This is a lie and not true,” the commander, Major Gen. Mohsen Rezaei, was quoted as saying. “Israel and the United States do not have the power to attack Iran’s various centers.”

Late Saturday, the Israeli military said it had bombed sites in Syria where Iran was preparing to attack Israel with “killer drones” laden with explosives. Israel previously carried out hundreds of such strikes in Syria and more recently bombings of Iranian-linked targets in Iraq.

Over the years, Iran has built a network of allies and militant groups to help advance its interests in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. The United States considers some of Iran’s allies, including Hezbollah, terrorist organizations.

The Trump administration has made pushing back against Iran a major part of its Middle East policy, a goal it shares with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other regional powers.

Source: NYT > World News

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