german ship lebanon 298.
(photo credit: Channel 2)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert apologized on Sunday to German Chancellor Angela Merkel for an incident that occurred last week between an Israeli fighter jet and a German naval boat that was patrolling the waters outside Lebanon.
In the conversation Olmert accepted an invitation by Merkel to visit Germany in the next few weeks. In addition German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung will travel to Israel later this week. Jung is also slated to visit Beirut.
Olmert told Merkel in a telephone conversation that the German naval presence in the region plays a vital role in the implementation of United Nations Resolution 1701. Israel would do everything in its power to coordinate its military efforts with the Germans to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future, Olmert told Merkel. Earlier in the day, Olmert also met with a legislative delegation from Germany belonging to Merkel's Christian Democratic Party. He told them he had personally asked that Germany be part of the international force.
Olmert thanked Merkel for Germany's contribution to the international force in southern Lebanon. The two leaders also spoke of political developments in Israel and within the Palestinian Authority.
His words echoed those of Defense Minister Amir Peretz earlier in the day to the cabinet and on October 25 in a phone conversation to his German counterpart regarding an incident involving Israeli-F16s and a German intelligence-gathering ship on October 24.
The IDF said the planes had approached a helicopter after it took off from a German ship without properly identifying itself. Peretz vehemently denied reports that the Israeli jets had fired on the German vessel in his talk with Jung.
However, on Friday the German Defense Ministry said that Israeli jets did in fact fire warning shots over one of its ships as it assisted the German-led UNIFIL maritime force in international waters 90 kilometers off the Lebanese coast.
The ship in question, the 83-meter Alster, was not listed as part of the German flotilla sent to prevent weapons smuggling.
German defense ministry spokesmen Thomas Raabe said six Israeli F-16s flew over the unarmed Alster and unaimed shots were fired in the air.
The incident was one of two involving the Israeli military and German forces in the region this week, Raabe said.
Also Sunday, UN officials denied reports that Israeli jets had fired on a German navy vessel in a separate incident in the waters off southern Lebanon late Thursday night.
The German magazine Bild Am Sonntag reported that Israeli F-16s approached a German navy helicopter and fired shots shortly after the aircraft took off from the deck of a German frigate.
"There was no such incident at all," UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti told Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
A German Defense Ministry spokesman said he was aware of a "non-menacing" incident between the IAF and a German ship, but he did not elaborate.
The IDF said it was looking into the report.
Even if proved inaccurate, this latest report will likely lend to concerns that Israel's insistence that it control the skies over Lebanon will inevitably lead to it clashing with the expanded UNIFIL.
Israel has said IAF overflights will continue until kidnapped reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev are released, and Hizbullah is prevented from rearming - both key stipulations in UN Resolution 1701.
AP contributed to this report.