Israel deploys missile defense unit near Lebanese border

Published: Updated:
Israel has deployed a missile defense battery in a main city near the Lebanese border, the military said Tuesday, two days after warplanes shot down an unmanned aircraft that entered Israeli skies.

An army spokesman said the Patriot missile defense battery has been stationed in the northern city of Haifa. He refused to say if the battery’s deployment was connected to Saturday’s drone incident.

He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military regulations.

The drone entered Israeli airspace from the Mediterranean coast and flew for about 20 minutes before it was shot down over remote desert terrain. Israeli officials say they began tracking the craft before it reached Israel, waiting to bring it down in order to avert possible casualties on the ground.

The military has not said where the drone originated or who produced it. But it appeared to be the work of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah, which possesses advanced Iranian weapons and has sent drones toward Israel in the past.

But according to Israeli Channel 10, Hezbollah has Russian-made unmanned aircrafts that can carry explosives and fly long distances.

The channel on Tuesday cited unnamed Israeli intelligence sources saying that these aircrafts can maim targets inside Israel despite them being old and unused.

The intelligence sources fear that Hezbollah’s staunch ally, Iran, to help the Islamist group to develop these aircrafts.

Haifa is Israel’s northern main port city. Israel deployed Patriot batteries in Haifa during its 2006 war with Hezbollah and on other occasions. Dozens of rockets fired from Lebanon hit the city during the month-long 2006 conflict. Haifa is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the border with Lebanon.