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Lebanon to ban drones over Shiite areas during festival

By AFP - Sep 01,2019 - Last updated at Sep 01,2019

This picture taken on Sunday from a location near the southern Lebanese town of Maroun Al Ras, close to the border with Israel (AFP photo)

BEIRUT — Lebanon said on Sunday it will ban drones over Shiite areas during commemorations for the Shiite festival of Ashura, following tensions with Israel over an alleged drone attack last week.

Shiite militant group Hizbollah has vowed that Israel "must pay a price" for what it says was a drone strike on one of its strongholds, the southern suburbs of Beirut.

"The army's command warns all citizens against the use of drones throughout the duration of Ashura commemorations in the following areas: The southern suburbs of Beirut, Nabatieh, Sour, Baalbek-Hermel," it said in a statement. 

Lebanon is expected to mark Ashura itself on September 10, but the days leading up to it feature multiple processions and religious gatherings.

This year's commemoration comes amid soaring tensions with neighbouring Israel, which is accused of flying two explosive-laden drones over the capital's southern suburbs on August 25.

Hizbollah said the pre-dawn drone attack "hit a specific area", without elaborating on the nature of the target.

Hizbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said on Saturday his group's response to the incident had been "decided".

"The need for a response is decided," he said during a televised speech, adding it was about "establishing the rules of engagement and... the logic of protection for the country".

Israel "must pay a price", he said.

He vowed to retaliate "at all costs" and target Israeli drones, which often operate in Lebanese airspace.

In a rare incident on Wednesday, the Lebanese army opened fire on Israeli drones that had violated Lebanon's airspace, forcing the aircraft to return across the border.

On Saturday, Israel fired flares over several areas close to the border, one of which landed in a base run by an Indian battalion of UN peacekeepers, according to the UN and the Lebanese army.

Israel and Hizbollah have fought several wars, the most recent a 33-day conflict in 2006, which killed 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

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