Israel says it shot down Hezbollah drones heading for gas rig

JERUSALEM, July 2 (Reuters) – Israel said it shot down three drones heading from Lebanon to one of its Mediterranean gas platforms on Saturday and accused the Iran-backed Hezbollah group of launching them.

There was no immediate response from Lebanon to the Israeli allegation, which came amid tensions between the countries over the location of the Karish platform and longstanding efforts but so far unsuccessful US mediation to agree on a maritime border.

The Israeli military said its forces intercepted “three hostile drones that approached the airspace above Israel’s economic waters”.

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An Israeli security source said the drones were unarmed, although this was not immediately confirmed by the military.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz accused Hezbollah of being behind the launch, saying in a statement that it was “preventing the Lebanese state from reaching an agreement on the maritime borders, which are essential to economy and the prosperity of the Lebanese nation”.

Saturday’s interceptions were the first time an Israeli Navy ship-mounted air defense system had shot down an incoming target, the military said.

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Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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