Iran has admitted that it supplied Hezbollah with the drone that penetrated Israeli airspace on Sunday, according to a report yesterday in a London-based Arabic newspaper.
A senior member of Iran's Revolutionary Guards told Al-Shark Al-Awsat that the drone was one of eight unmanned airborne vehicles manufactured in Iran that were transfered to Hezbollah last August, along with surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 70 kilometers and anti-aircraft shells.
The source spent several months in Lebanon training members of Hezbollah's "technology warfare" unit in using innovative technologies.
He also reported that Iran had flown similar drones over Iraq to monitor American military activity there.
The Hezbollah drone that entered Israel on Sunday flew at low altitude over Nahariya, then turned seaward. It fell into the Mediterranean as it approached the Lebanese coast, and was retrieved by fishermen and handed over to Hezbollah operatives.
The drone, known as the Mheger 4 in Iran, was renamed by Hezbollah Mirsad 1 (meaning "ambush" or "espionage"). Hezbollah announced it has several other similar drones, but senior officials interviewed by Arabic media declined to comment on the drone's technical specifications "so as not to alleviate Israel's embarrassment."
According to the Iranian source, the drone is outfitted with three cameras, digital radar, and a transmitter. With an engine capacity of close to 10 horsepower, the drone can fly at an altitude of 6,000 feet and reach a maximum speed of 120 kilometers per hour. Iran is now developing a more advanced model, the Mheger 6, that will be able to fly at an altitude of 10,000 feet and reach 160 kilometers per hour. Iran has developed four types of drones so far.
Haaretz reported on Tuesday that Iranian military personnel were present at Hezbollah's command center during the drone's flight over Israel. Yesterday's Al-Shark Al-Awsat report said that Hezbollah operatives are now training in Iran at the Revolutionary Guards' drone bases near Isfahan to fly similar craft. Over the past two years, some 30 Lebanese operatives have undergone training and returned home.
Response in Lebanon to Hezbollah's move has been mixed. Some, including official government officials, have expressed support and admiration for the organization's newfound ability; others have voiced concern about the ramifications of taking the anti-Israel struggle to a new level.
Hezbollah, as the Beirut daily Al-Mustaqbal wrote, listened carefully to all the comments and will respond when it sees fit.