Video: Hezbollah's drone

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updated 4/12/2005 7:23:29 PM ET 2005-04-12T23:23:29

At a remote Israeli outpost along the northern border with Lebanon, every day is a potentially deadly game of cat and mouse, with the terror group Hezbollah only yards away, flying its flags. Israeli soldiers in high-tech observation stations monitor cameras and sensors around the clock.

The situation became even more volatile, when in November and again on Monday, Hezbollah surprised the Israelis by launching unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, that flew over Israeli towns and returned safely to Lebanon.

The leader of Hezbollah bragged at a rally that the unmanned surveillance plane, called Mirsad 1, can be rigged with explosives and flown deep inside Israel.

"You can load the Mirsad plane with a quantity of explosive ranging from 40 to 50 kilos and send it to its target," said Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Nov. 2004. "Do you want a power plant, water plant, military base? Anything!"

Hezbollah claims it manufactured the drones itself.

But U.S. and Israeli intelligence sources tell NBC News that Hezbollah actually obtained the UAVs from Iran and that Iranian soldiers are stationed just across the border to help operate them.

At an airshow in Iran earlier this year, an aviation official showed off Iran's UAVs to NBC News.

"When you turn on the engine, it takes off and flies," Abbas Fallah of Iran Aircraft Manufacturing told us. "It's so easy!"

We asked Fallah if the UAV was a "weapon of mass destruction."

"I don't think so!" he laughed.

Iranian officials have both taken credit for supplying the UAVs to Hezbollah and denied it. 

One imprisoned Hezbollah fighter, named Shadi Abu Al-Hussein, allegedly confessed to the Israelis that he tried and failed to build a crude UAV packed with explosives. He sketched it for his Israeli captors. But in an interview with NBC News, the prisoner denied he's even part of Hezbollah.

U.S. and Israeli intelligence believes Iran gave Hezbollah a half-dozen UAVs which feed live video and have sophisticated guidance systems.

"Well, there is a clear escalation, a provocation, and it could be an attempt to collect and gather information and intelligence to attack us," says Daniel Ayalon, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S.

Some Middle East experts worry that the UAVs further destabilize an already fragile environment.

"The danger is that Hezbollah will now have the capability to inflict greater damage on Israel by more precise targeting," says Joseph Cirincione, a weapons expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "Israel cannot simply take those attacks."

Already Israel's vastly superior military is embarrassed that a terror group's little unmanned spy plane has been able to penetrate Israeli airspace — twice.

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