TEHRAN, Iran -- A senior Iranian military official claimed Tuesday that Iranian-made surveillance drones have made dozens of apparently undetected flights into Israeli airspace from Lebanon in recent years to probe air defenses and collect reconnaissance data. An Israeli official rejected the account.
The Iranian official declined to give further details on the purported missions or the capabilities of the drones, including whether they were similar to the unmanned aircraft launched last week by Lebanon's Hezbollah and downed by Israeli warplanes. It also was impossible to independently verify the claims from the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.
The Iranian assertions appear to be part of the Islamic Republic's widening strategy to boast about military advances – including warships and longer-range drones – that Tehran says could reorder the balance of power in the region as the West and its allies boost pressure over Iran's nuclear ambitions. Iran's leaders also seek to portray Israel as vulnerable to Tehran and its proxies.
But an Israeli security official rejected the Iranian claims, saying last week's interception of a drone was the first time such an infiltration had occurred. He said Israel spotted the unmanned aircraft well before it entered Israeli airspace, determined it was not "dangerous" and then shot it down over uninhabited desert according to plan. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because an Israeli military investigation is still under way. (MORE)