Lebanese troops open fire on Israeli warplanes flying over Lebanon

Daily News Egypt
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BEIRUT: Lebanese troops opened fire Thursday on Israeli warplanes flying low over southern Lebanon, but no hits were reported, Lebanese officials said.

Lebanese soldiers opened up with machine guns and light anti-aircraft weapons mounted on armored vehicles at two planes that flew by just east of Marjayoun town near the border at midmorning, a Lebanese security official said.

A total of 150 rounds were fired, he added.

A senior military officer also said the army confronted the Israeli planes, but gave no details.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in the absence of a formal announcement from the military command.

The Israeli military does not comment on air operations, but there were no reports from Jerusalem of any planes being hit.

Israeli warplanes frequently fly over Lebanese airspace in what Israel says are reconnaissance missions, but this was the first time the army has fired on the aircraft since an Aug. 14, 2006 cease-fire ended a month-long war between Israeli and Hezbollah fighters.

Earlier this year, Lebanese and Israeli soldiers briefly exchanged fire near the border village of Maroun El-Rass where the UN-demarcated Blue Line was not clearly marked. There were no casualties.

Israeli overflights have been a constant source of tension between the two countries. The deployment of about 15,000 Lebanese troops in the south along with some 13,000 UN peacekeepers after the UN-brokered ceasefire has not stopped the flyovers despite the UN describing them as a violation of Lebanese sovereignty.

Asked to comment on Thursday s incident, a spokesman for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, Ari Gaitanis, said Israeli flights over Lebanon constitute repeated violations of Security Council resolutions, and also damage efforts to reduce tension and stabilize the situation in southern Lebanon.

He said 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. We regularly report to the Security Council about all the violations. At the same time we urge all parties to act with restraint in order to avoid any escalation of the situation, Gaitanis told The Associated Press.

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