* Drones were to attack northern Israel, military says

* Syrian army says it destroyed most of the Israeli missiles (Adds quotes by Israeli PM and military, background)

JERUSALEM/DAMASCUS, Aug 24 (Reuters) – Israeli aircraft on Saturday struck Iranian forces near Damascus that had been planning to launch “killer drones” at targets in Israel, an Israeli military spokesman said.

“The strike targeted Iranian Quds Force operatives and Shiite militias which were preparing to advance attack plans targeting sites in Israel from within Syria over the last number of days,” the military said in a statement.

The elite Quds Force is the overseas arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told reporters the forces on Thursday had been preparing to launch “killer drones” armed with explosives at northern Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military had thwarted the planned Iranian attack. “Iran has no immunity anywhere. Our forces operate in every sector against the Iranian aggression,” he said on Twitter.

Syrian state media said Syrian air defences intercepted “hostile targets” over Damascus, the capital, Saturday night.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun blasted Israel on Sunday after two drones, one being armed, crashed in the Lebanese capital of Beirut early Sunday morning, shortly after the Israeli military said it foiled an Iranian drone attack against northern Israel from Syria.

Calling the “Israeli aggression” on the southern suburbs of Beirut a “blatant attack on Lebanon and the integrity of its territory,” Aoun said that Israel’s “aggression is a threat to regional stability.”

Hezbollah meanwhile denied reports that the group was planning a military response to the incident after a report in the Lebanese newspaper Alluah said that it had raised its alert and was planning a response ahead of a speech by the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah which is scheduled for 5pm Sunday evening.

Lebanon’s military said two IDF reconnaissance drones crashed in the Lebanese capital of Beirut early Saturday morning and that troops quickly “took the necessary measures” and cordoned off the area.

“Two Israeli enemy reconnaissance aircraft violated Lebanese airspace over the area of Moawad – Madi neighborhood in the southern suburbs of Beirut,” read a statement by the Lebanese Armed Forces. “The first crashed and the second exploded in the air, causing limited damage.”

Hezbollah spokesman Muhammad Afif said Sunday that one Israeli drone exploded and caused significant damage to the media office in the Moawwas neighborhood of Beirut, wounding three people. Another drone was reported to have crashed in the group’s stronghold neighborhood of Dahiyeh shortly afterwards, causing no damage.

“There were two drones — the first fell and was neutralized, the second exploded,” Afif was quoted by Hezbollah’s al-Manar news site as saying, adding that the group did not shoot down either of the drones.


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