A spate of drone attacks in Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and now Lebanon has raised the spectre of a new era of conflict in the region, due to the ability of stealth-like weapons to penetrate distant battlefields and hit closely guarded targets.
Drone warfare has become an instrumental factor in the escalating conflict between Israel and Iran, now being fought over both sides of the Israeli border and in skies across the region.
Small, cheap to produce and capable of evading radar systems, drones have been a centrepiece of the Israeli military’s arsenal for years – primarily in its operations over Gaza.
Iran has also begun deploying the unmanned, remotely piloted machines in clashes with Israel. Tehran has long used proxies in such actions but is now increasingly carrying them out itself. All sides see the technology as having surgical qualities.
Israeli officials have told European diplomats the two drones which crashed in Beirut on Sunday were sent from Israel to disrupt efforts by Hezbollah to fit advanced guidance systems to rudimentary rockets, sources have revealed.
The drones fell in the Lebanese capital’s southern suburbs, a stronghold of the militant group, which retrieved the damaged machines and has since claimed they were fitted with about five kilograms of plastic explosives.
Two western diplomats said the unusual operation may have been an assassination attempt, or an attempt to destroy a site vital to Hezbollah’s ability to retrofit its rocket arsenal. Either theory suggests the attack was an attempt to deter efforts to fit guidance systems to missiles.
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