BEIRUT — The leader of Hezbollah claimed responsibility Thursday for launching an Iranian-made drone aircraft into Israeli airspace earlier this week, adding more tension to an already explosive Middle East atmosphere.
Sheik Hassan Nasrallah warned that it would not be the last such operation by his Lebanese militant group.
Israeli warplanes shot down the unmanned plane, but the infiltration marked a rare breach of Israel’s tightly guarded airspace. Hezbollah had been the leading suspect because of its arsenal of sophisticated Iranian weapons and a history of trying to deploy similar aircraft.
With a formidable arsenal that rivals that of the Lebanese army, Hezbollah is already under pressure in Lebanon from rivals who accuse it of putting Lebanon at risk of getting drawn into regional turmoil.
Confirmation that Hezbollah was behind the drone could put the group under further strain internally as it pursues its longstanding conflict with Israel.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a brutal monthlong war in mid-2006. The conflict ended in a stalemate.
Israel routinely sends F-16 fighter planes over Lebanon, in violation of a UN Security Council resolution that ended the 2006 war.
The Israeli planes have often broken the sound barrier over Beirut and other places as a show of strength, most recently after the drone incident.
‘‘This statement today is a claim of responsibility by the Islamic resistance for this qualitative operation’’ of dispatching the drone, Nasrallah said in a televised address late Thursday.