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Hezbollah claims it sent drone over Israel, but expert calls it 'rinky-dink'

By Ashley Fantz, CNN
updated 9:06 AM EDT, Fri October 12, 2012
  • Hezbollah leader: We sent the drone into Israel, and Iran made it
  • Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah: The drone flew over "sensitive sites"
  • Expert: Hezbollah has been doing this for years; the drone has 'rinky-dink' technology

(CNN) -- The leader of the Shia militant movement Hezbollah in Lebanon said his group is responsible for launching a drone into Israel last week, and Iranians made the drone.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said on the movement's television channel that the drone flew over "sensitive sites" in Israel.

"This drone is not Russian made, this drone was an Iranian made," he said. The drone "was assembled by the specialized Hezbollah team. The Lebanese should be proud of that."

Israel eyes Lebanon after drone downed

The Israeli air force shot down the unmanned device Saturday over the northern Negev desert, the Israeli Defense Forces said.

The drone, which was hovering over Gaza and had entered Israeli airspace, wasn't carrying weapons or explosives, military spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said.

Nasrallah boasted that it wasn't the first time Hezbollah has sent aerial drones over Israel. He said the group can do it "whenever we want" inside "occupied Palestine."

"This mission was not the first one," he said, "and will not be the last one, God willing."

Asked about Nasrallah's speech and his bold statement, a senior Israeli official who did not have permission to speak publicly on the subject said: "His statement is not worth commenting on."

Read more: Do drones mark new arms race?

Hezbollah has been flying drones over Israel for years, said Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations, who specializes in drone technology proliferation and the Middle East.

"That it happened again is absolutely insignificant," he said.

He described Nasrallah's comments as blustering and largely empty.

"Israel usually tracks these drones as they come across the border and often doesn't bother to shoot them down," Zenko said. "They just want to see what Hezbollah thinks it can do."

Drones like the one shot down on Saturday cannot even be piloted until someone has "line control" of the device, or is at least within 50 kilometers of it, he said.

"To call them rinky-dink would be polite," he said. "The drones that Iranians display at airshows or that they tout for sale, defense industry press people describe them as crude."

These drones don't have "hard points," or brackets, on which ammunition can be fixed, Zenko said, but they do have the ability to conduct surveillance. It's unclear if the Iranians have drones that can do surveillance in real time, he added.

Nasrallah said the goal of the drone was to "show ... capabilities or some of them at the right time, and send the messages at the right time."

Read more: The folly of drone attacks

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