IAF fighter jet 298.
(photo credit: AP)
An internal IDF document says the air force's controversial flights over Lebanon are intended in part to pressure the international community to take action to stop arms smuggling to Hizbullah guerrillas and to release two abducted Israeli soldiers, a senior Defense Ministry official said Thursday.
The document, titled "Strategic diplomatic messages: the army must continue overflights to secure international pressure," was approved by chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, the official said.
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He spoke on condition of anonymity because he isn't authorized to discuss policy with the press.
On Tuesday Israeli warplanes roared low over Hizbullah strongholds in south Beirut in the heaviest show of air power over Lebanon since the August 14 cease-fire.
The IDF Spokesman's Office would not confirm reports of the mock air raids over Hizbullah strongholds in Beirut and in the south of the country, saying it did not give operational details. Witnesses and Lebanese security officials said that IAF F-16s dived down at least six times to zoom low over the city's southern suburbs before roaring back up to the sky.
The roar of the jets caused concern among residents, some of whom took to the rooftops and balconies to watch.
The Lebanese army issued a statement saying its anti-aircraft batteries fired at the planes.
The overflights came only hours after UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen told the Security Council that the Lebanese government had reported that arms were being smuggled into the country from Syria, and a few hours before Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah was scheduled to appear on a Lebanese television channel.
France and European Union officials reiterated Tuesday that Israeli flights in Lebanon's airspace were violations of Lebanese sovereignty and needed to be stopped.
with Josh Brannon