Lebanese Army fires on Israeli planes violating airspace over South

October 26th, 2007 | Posted in Lebanon, Palestine, Corporate Media, Politics, Resistance
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    By Rym Ghazal. Daily Star. Friday, October 26, 2007

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    Photo: Hills of Southern Lebanon.

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army opened fire on Israeli warplanes flying low over South Lebanon on Thursday, in the first incident of its kind since the summer 2006 war. “Israeli warplanes were flying lower than usual over Lebanon and so we fired at them,” a senior army source told The Daily Star, confirming that gunners fired on intruding aircraft twice.

At midmorning on Thursday, Lebanese troops fired on two planes using machine guns and light anti-aircraft weapons mounted on armored vehicles, one near the town of Marjayoun town, and the other over Maroun al-Ras.

While the army source would not give the altitude at which the planes flew, he said that the distance was out of reach of the army’s weapons.

“Our firing is not for show, but for effect; if we had missiles we would shoot them down one by one for violating Lebanon’s sovereignty,” said the army source.

There was no official response from the Israeli military, and there were no reports from Occupied Jerusalem of any planes being hit.

An army statement issued later in the day said “the Lebanese Army’s ground antiaircraft guns confronted the hostile Israeli aircraft during its violation of Lebanese airspace over the regions of Marjayoun and Bint Jbeil.”

Israeli warplanes and drones regularly violate Lebanese airspace for what Israel calls reconnaissance missions, but the United Nations and Beirut condemn them as provocative violations of Security Council resolutions and Lebanon’s sovereignty.

Earlier this year, Lebanese and Israeli soldiers briefly exchanged fire near the border village of Maroun al-Ras in one of the less clearly marked areas along the UN-demarcated Blue Line separating the South of Lebanon from Israel.

Israeli overflights are a longstanding source of tension between the two countries, with daily reports by the army on the areas flown over by the Israeli warplanes and drones.

On Thursday, the army released a statement in which it detailed the areas violated by “Israeli spy planes” which included Beirut, the Eastern Bekaa Valley, and the southern towns of Nabatiyeh, Bint Jbeil, Khiam, Marjayoun, Kferkala, Jezzine, Naqoura and Tyre.

Lebanon has seen an increasing number of overflights in recent days and the shooting at the planes on Thursday was seen by some observers as evidence of mounting impatience with the Israelis and the inability of the UN to prevent such overflights despite frequent complaints.

The deployment of about 15,000 Lebanese troops and some 13,000 UN peacekeepers under the UN-brokered ceasefire that ended the war has not stopped the overflights, despite the UN’s repeated criticism that such actions undermine the credibility of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

“The Israeli flights over Lebanon constitute repeated violations of Security Council resolutions, and also damage efforts to reduce tension and stabilize the situation,” UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti told The Daily Star.

He added that the UNIFIL commander and senior UN representatives in the region, as well as a number of interested member states, “have voiced concern and called on Israel to cease these air violations.”

Tenenti said that UNIFIL regularly reports to the Security Council about all violations.

“We urge all parties to act with restraint in order to avoid any escalation of the situation,” said Tenenti.

The Lebanese government has repeatedly asked the United Nations to put an end to the violations.

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