katyusha haifa 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said in Sunday's cabinet meeting that the IAF would continue its overflights of Lebanon until UN Resolution 1701 was fully implemented.
Until Syria stops moving weapons to Lebanon, Peretz added, Israel is justified in the flights.
"The accumulating intelligence in our hands points to a rising effort to transfer arms," and so "the legitimacy for overflights increases," Peretz said.
"As long as the resolution isn't implemented, there is no other choice," he added.
On Saturday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev responded to sharp French criticism of Israel's overflights of Lebanon by urging the international community to focus on the Lebanese violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 rather than pointing fingers at Israel.
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French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told a news conference Friday that the violations of Lebanese air space could give others an excuse not to obey the cease-fire imposed by 1701, and were also "extremely dangerous" because French-led UN peacekeepers on the ground could see them as hostile acts and fire in self-defense.
French troops make up a large part of the expanded UNIFIL forces in Lebanon.
Alloit-Marie's words seemed to reinforce some concerns articulated in Jerusalem before the arrival of the international force in Lebanon that it would increase tensions at certain times between Israel and the countries that sent the troops.
Regev said that Israel, by pulling its troops out of Lebanon on the eve of Yom Kippur, fulfilled its core requirement under 1701, which put an end to the fighting in Lebanon. The same, he said, could not be said of the Lebanese.
"Any objective person looking at the implementation of 1701 must agree that the onus now is on the Lebanese side to fulfill its core commitments, and at the moment there are three issues that are lacking," he said.
First, he said, IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev are still being held captive, in direct opposition to the resolution. Secondly, the international arms embargo on Hizbullah is not fully in place, and "unfortunately there are still illicit arms transfers." Third, the resolution calls for the removal of all Hizbullah armed personnel south of the Litani River, something that has not yet been achieved.
"So instead of pointing a finger at Israel, we think the international community should be dealing with violations the Lebanese side are making," he said.
Regev said that even though the resolution has not been fully implemented, Israel has not "given up on it," and sees its implementation as a "process."
But, he said, the Israeli overflights are "in many ways a response to the continued violation of 1701 on the Lebanese side. In the absence of an enforced arms embargo we have a need to act. In the absence of the removal of armed Hizbullah personnel in the south we have a need to act, and any information we can attain to the positions of the hostages is also legitimate."
Defense Minister Amir Peretz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that French officials in Lebanon have warned that Israeli planes may not remain immune if they continue to violate Lebanese airspace.
Alliot-Marie was explicit that the overflights were violations that must stop. She said they are not in Israel's interest because they "could be used as pretexts for some people so that these people themselves don't enforce the resolution."
The defense minister spoke a day after French Maj.-Gen. Alain Pellegrini, who leads the UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, said the overflights are a major concern and a clear violation of the resolution.
France has deployed anti-aircraft missiles in southern Lebanon, and at the moment they can only be used for self-defense for French soldiers serving in the UN force.
AP contributed to this report â€¢