PM: Hizbullah no longer threat to north

IAF jets stage mock raids over Beirut's Hizbullah stronghold; France condemns.

By JOSH BRANNON, AP
October 31, 2006 09:53
2 minute read.
PM: Hizbullah no longer threat to north

iaf jet lebanon 298 88aj. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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Israeli warplanes roared low over Hizbullah strongholds in south Beirut Tuesday in the heaviest show of air power over Lebanon since the August 14 cease-fire.

  • The second Lebanon war: JPost.com special report 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.
  • Halutz slammed for promoting generals
  • Bolton: Syria, Iran arming Hizbullah 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 statement said four of the eight Israeli planes flew over southern Lebanon while the other four flew elsewhere in the country, including over Beirut. Officials and witnesses reported IAF planes flying low over the towns of Nabatiyeh and Tyre. It was not clear what prompted Israel to stage the mock raids, which lasted more than 30 minutes. Army Radio reported the flights were part of routine intelligence-gathering activities, citing military sources. 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. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said the overflights were "contrary to the spirit" of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls for both Israel and Lebanon to respect the UN-delineated border. "We consider that these overflights constitute a violation of Lebanese sovereignty," Mattei said at a regular press briefing. "We call on Israel to put an end to these overflights and we call on all partners to refrain from any act that could maintain or increase tension." "We want to see the full implementation" of the resolution, EU spokeswoman Emma Udwin said. "We think that is also very much in Israel's interest." Defense Minister Amir Peretz has said on several occasions that the flights would continue until abducted reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser are returned and adequate actions are taken by UNIFIL to prevent Hizbullah from rearming. Two weeks ago, French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie criticized the overflights as "extremely dangerous," and said French-led UN peacekeepers on the ground might see them as hostile acts and fire in self-defense. The IAF's actions raised speculation that they were an unveiled warning to Nasrallah.

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