By Mariam Karouny
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged on Thursday sending a drone aircraft that was shot down last weekend after flying some 25 miles into Israel.
Nasrallah said in a televised speech that the drone's parts were manufactured in Iran and it was assembled by members of the Shi'ite Muslim militant movement in Lebanon. He confirmed a statement by Israel's prime minister saying that Hezbollah was behind the drone flight.
"The resistance in Lebanon sent a sophisticated reconnaissance aircraft from Lebanon...It penetrated the enemy's iron procedures and entered occupied southern Palestine," Nasrallah said. Hezbollah does not recognize the state of Israel.
Tensions have increased in the region with Israel threatening to bomb the nuclear sites of Hezbollah's patron Iran if diplomacy and sanctions fail to stop Iranian nuclear activity the West suspects is meant to develop a weapons capability. Tehran says it is seeking only civilian nuclear energy.
Iran has threatened in turn to attack U.S. military bases in the Middle East and retaliate against Israel if attacked.
Seeking to underline that Hezbollah was capable of reaching targets well inside Israel, Nasrallah said the drone "flew over sensitive installations inside southern Palestine and was shot down in an area near the Dimona nuclear reactor".
Iran said the incursion exposed the weakness of Israeli air defense, indicating that Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile defense system "does not work and lacks the necessary capacity". The Iron Dome system, jointly funded with Washington, is designed to down short-range guerrilla rockets, not slow-flying aircraft.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012. Check for restrictions at: http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp