Israel suspects Hezbollah in drone incident

BEIRUT -- Israeli warplanes swooped low over Lebanese villages Sunday in a menacing show of force apparently aimed at the Hezbollah guerrilla group after a mysterious raid by an unmanned aircraft that was shot out of Israeli skies over the weekend.

Israel was still investigating Saturday's incident, but Hezbollah quickly emerged as the leading suspect because it has an arsenal of sophisticated Iranian weapons and a history of trying to deploy similar aircraft.

Military officials would not say where the drone originated or who produced it, but they ruled out the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Hamas, a group not known to possess drones. That left Hezbollah as the most likely culprit.

"It is an Iranian drone that was launched by Hezbollah," Israeli lawmaker Miri Regev, a former chief spokeswoman for the Israeli military, wrote on her Twitter feed. "Hezbollah and Iran continue to try to collect information in every possible way in order to harm Israel." She did not offer any further evidence.

Hezbollah officials would not comment on speculation that the group had launched the drone.

The Israeli military said it began tracking the aircraft over the Mediterranean but waited until it was over an empty, desert area to bring it down, to avoid casualties on the ground.

Yesterday's Israeli air raids, buzzing over pro-Hezbollah villages in southern Lebanon, appeared to be aimed at reminding the guerrilla group of Israel's air superiority.

At times of heightened tensions, the Israeli air force often carries out mock raids over Lebanese territory.

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