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Israeli drones crash in Beirut

Two Israeli drones crashed in a Hezbollah stronghold in the Lebanese capital overnight, Lebanese and Hezbollah officials said Sunday, saying the first fell on the roof of a building housing the group's media office while the second landed in a plot behind it.

The spokesman for the Iran-backed Hezbollah said the group did not fire on any of the drones, which crashed amid heightened tensions between neighbouring Israel and Iran and shortly after Israeli warplanes attacked targets near the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Israeli aircraft continued to violate Lebanese airspace Sunday, flying low over Beirut hours after the drones had crashed, raising fears of a wider conflict.

Hezbollah spokesman Mohammed Afif said a small, unmanned reconnaissance drone fell on a building housing Hezbollah's media office in the Moawwad neighbourhood in Dahyeh, the group's stronghold in southern Beirut.

He said a second drone, which appeared to have been sent by Israel to search for the first one less than 45 minutes later, exploded in the air and crashed in an empty plot nearby, shattering windows in surrounding buildings. He said the second drone was likely armed, judging by the damage it caused.

Residents said they heard a loud blast that triggered a nighttime fire.

"We did not shoot down or explode any of the drones," Afif told The Associated Press.

He said Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah will give the official and "appropriate" response in a previously scheduled televised appearance later Sunday.

There was no immediate Israeli comment on the drone incident or Hezbollah's remarks.

AP journalists on the scene Sunday said the 11-floor building that houses Hezbollah's media office as well as nearby buildings suffered minor damage and broken glass. On the second floor, where the group has its offices, shattered glass littered the floors and some of the desks were overturned. A portrait of Nasrallah was on a desk littered with glass.

A Lebanese army statement said an Israeli drone came down while the other exploded in the sky over Beirut, causing material damage.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri described the crash of the two drones as a violation and "aggression" against Lebanese sovereignty. He said the developments overnight constitute a threat to regional stability and an attempt to push the situation toward more escalation.



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