UN: Israel violating Lebanon's air space, 2000 agreement

Special to World
Thursday, January 8, 2004

Israel has increased its use of aircraft in military operations in southern Lebanon.

The United Nations has determined that Israel has used a range of fixed-wing aircraft and unmanned air vehicles in Lebanon. UN officials said this has violated an agreement in 2000 for Israel to respect Lebanese sovereignty amid its withdrawal from southern Lebanon.

Staffan di Mistura, the representative of UN secretary-general Kofi Annan for southern Lebanon, said that on Sunday UN forces detected five Israeli air violations of Lebanese air space. Di Mistura said the violations comprised flights by two Israeli aircraft and four UAVs.

The UN envoy again expressed his concern over continued Israeli overflights and called on Israel to refrain from violations. He said Israel was violating Security Council 425, which called for Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.

Di Mistura did not identify the Israeli aircraft. But UN sources said Israel Air Force has been using the F-16 multi-role fighter and Searcher UAV in operations in southern Lebanon.

Israeli officials said the air operations in southern Lebanon mark a response to Hizbullah threats to northern Israel. They said Hizbullah has increased efforts to plant bombs along roads in northern Israel as well as abduct soldiers.

Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon has warned Syria to restrain Hizbullah. Ya'alon told an audience at Haifa University on Tuesday that Israel could order additional air attacks against targets in Syria in retaliation for Hizbullah attacks. On Oct. 5, Israel struck a training base of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command near Damascus.

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