French MoD: Troops were "seconds away" from firing in incident last week.
By JOSH BRANNON, AP
Israeli fighter jets were reported to have penetrated deep into Lebanon on Thursday, a day after France said its troops were "two seconds" away from firing on a squadron of F-15s that buzzed their positions in the south of the country at the end of October.
The jets flew over the southern coastal town of Nakoura and the city of Tyre, as well as Baalbek in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley on Thursday, according to Lebanese officials.
A senior Defense Ministry official said in response to the French complaint: "Israel sees the international forces as partners and not enemies in the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701."
He added that the overflights were strictly for inspection and noted that there would be no need for them if the smuggling of weapons from Syria to Lebanon was stopped.
The official stressed the "essential need" for coordination between the IDF and international forces in securing the full implementation of the UN resolution. Defense Minister Amir Peretz has made the return of the kidnapped IDF soldiers a condition for stopping the overflights.
French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told lawmakers on Wednesday that a squadron of Israeli F-15 fighter planes buzzed French peacekeepers' positions in southern Lebanon on October 31.
The planes were "clearly in attack position," she said, in comments broadcast on RTL radio Thursday.
French troops responded by readying an anti-aircraft missile, and were seconds away from firing on the warplanes, she said.
"A catastrophe was avoided thanks to the judiciousness of our troops," Alliot-Marie said.
"Under these circumstances, our troops find themselves in a position where they have to fire in legitimate self defense."
It wasn't immediately clear why the French troops decided not to fire.
The Israeli ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Ministry following the incident, French Defense Ministry spokesman Jean-Francois Bureau said. Capt. Christophe Prazuck, spokesman for France's general staff, said the planes made three flyovers in the area.
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