IDF had advance warning of Hezbollah’s drone launch towards Israel’s Karish gas field off Israeli coast.
By World Israel News Staff
Three unmanned aircraft were shot down over the Mediterranean Sea by Israeli air and naval forces Saturday afternoon, after the drone aircraft were spotted flying towards an Israeli offshore gas field.
The three aircraft were detected en route to the Karish gas field, an offshore natural gas field 75 km northwest of Haifa.
The Israeli military announced Saturday that it had successfully shot down all three drone aircraft, with missiles launched from a fighter jet and a naval vessel.
One drone was shot down by a missile fired from an Israel Air Force F-16, while the other two were downed by Barak-8 medium range surface-to-air missiles launched by the INS Eilat, a Sa’ar class corvette.
Saturday’s incident marks the first time the Barak-8 missile system was used in combat against an airborne target.
The Iranian-backed Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the drones, saying they had been launched on a “reconnaissance mission.”
In a statement released Saturday, Hezbollah said the drones had been unarmed, and claimed that they had completed their mission. No mention was made of the drones’ destruction.
“On Saturday afternoon, three unarmed drones were launched towards the disputed Karish field for reconnaissance missions. The mission was accomplished.”
On Sunday, IDF spokesman Ran Kochav said in an interview with Kan that the Israeli military that the downing of the drones was a “significant operation setback” for Hezbollah.
Kochav hinted that Israel had advanced warning of the launch, noting that the drones were all shot down while still flying over Lebanese waters.
“We are ready, in terms of our early warning systems, and in terms of intelligence, the Navy and Air Force, to protect Israel’s assets.”
Last month, Lebanon dropped its claims on the Karish gas field, as the decades-long maritime border talks between Israel and Lebanon continue.
While the Karish field has long been claimed by Israel, Beirut expanded its demands in December, claiming an additional 1,460 square kilometers of water, including the Karish gas field.
Earlier in June, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned that the recent arrival of Greek company Energean’s floating rig to start extracting gas from the Karish field off of Israel’s coast was an attack on Lebanese sovereignty and would not go unanswered.
“All possibilities are open for the resistance,” he said. “We don’t want war, but do not fear it. Israel must cease its activities in the Karish field and send the ship back quickly and immediately.”
Another senior Hezbollah figure, Nabil Kauk, threatened that “missiles of resistance can harm Israel’s strategic installations,” in an oblique reference to the offshore fields.
The IDF responded that its forces could protect Israel’s vital infrastructure and warned Lebanon against testing it.