Israel has destroyed what was described as one of its own espionage devices planted off the coast of the port city of Sidon, Lebanese radio reports said on Thursday.

There was no official comment on the radio reports by the Lebanese army.

Late Wednesday Sidon residents heard an explosion off the city’s coast and observed red flames, a Lebanese security source said.

Israeli helicopters had also been seen hovering over the area.

Israeli gunships had fired two rockets and “destroyed an Israeli espionage device which was planted by Israel near Sidon,” the radio reports said.

The Israeli military denied any knowledge of the incident.

“Following recent media reports regarding irregular activities in Southern Lebanon, we wish to clarify that there is no unusual IDF (Israel Defence Forces) activity in the area,” it said in a statement.

But Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri condemned on Thursday the alleged infiltration of Israeli aircraft into his country’s territory, saying it had “stirred panic among the residents of Sidon and south Lebanon.” He also called on the UN to act against “attacks on Lebanon’s sovereignty.” On Wednesday the Lebanese army announced it had uncovered Israeli cameras and other spy equipment on Mount Sannine, north-east of Beirut, and on Barouk Mountain, east of the capital. It claimed the Jewish state had been using them in order to survey vast areas.

“Unveiling these two systems came as a result of information obtained by the Intelligence Directorate from resistance (Hezbollah) sources,” said a statement released by the Lebanese Army Command.

The militant Shiite movement Hezbollah has accused Israel of having infiltrated and deployed spies in the Lebanese telecommunications sector over the past few years.

Tensions are currently running high in Lebanon as the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is probing the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, prepares to issue its indictments.

The indictments are widely expected to implicate some Hezbollah members, a charge the group has completely rejected, coupled with a warning that it “will cut off the hand” of anyone who names any member of the group.

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