JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel said Friday its air force is compelled to overfly Lebanon despite a U.N. cease-fire resolution, because armed Hezbollah militiamen remain deployed in the south of the country and continue to receive weapons shipments in violation of the truce.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev did not contend that the Israeli flights were in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1701, which included the cease-fire that brought an end to 4 days of fighting between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas on Aug. 14, but said they were forced upon Israel in the interest of its own security.
“Israel conducts overflights because there are continuous violations by the Lebanese side which are forcing us to act,” Regev told The Associated Press. “The international arms embargo, which is an integral element of resolution 1701 is not being applied and illicit arms are being supplied to Hezbollah and so our action is a response to their violation.”
The U.N. peacekeeping chief in Lebanon, Maj. Gen. Alain Pelligrini of France, said Thursday that the Israeli overflights violate the resolution and if current diplomatic efforts fail to stop them, force might be considered in the future. Pelligrini said France had deployed anti-aircraft missiles in southern Lebanon but at the moment the missiles can only be used for self-defense to protect French soldiers serving in the U.N. force. He said new rules of engagement would be needed to use force to prevent the Israeli overflights.