Israeli security sources claimed Friday that drones captured after being flown across the frontier from neighboring Lebanon have provided insight into the growing aerial surveillance capabilities of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist organization.
Lebanon and Israel are technically in a state of war and drones have become a regular feature of their heavily guarded border.
Images extracted from one drone downed in August, shown to AFP, showed what the source said was Hezbollah drone operators and pictures of other drones, as well as an aerial shot of a northern Israeli settlement and military post.
The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he believed the footage showed Hezbollah special forces training in how to use drones, which he said was the first such glimpse for Israel.
A second source said that five drones seized last year, including a small observation drone downed on Tuesday, belonged to Hezbollah.
“We are learning about the enemy and the enemy is learning about us,” said the second source, also speaking on condition of anonymity. “It is kind of a learning race between Hezbollah and us.”
Israel is a leader in developing and using drones in warfare, but it is seeing its technological superiority challenged by arch-foe Iran, which is also developing unmanned aerial vehicles for military use.
The drones used by Hezbollah were not necessarily Iranian made, but rather ordinary commercially available devices, the second source said.
“It is so easy to just take a drone from the store and gather intelligence and do whatever you imagine,” he said.
In September, Hezbollah said it had shot down an Israeli drone over Lebanon.
Hezbollah operates out of Lebanon, which is struggling during a dire economic crisis. The first security source said the economic woes did not appear to have lessened Hezbollah’s drone program.