Lebanon’s president reacted angrily on Sunday to news that Israeli aircraft had spent several hours in the country’s airspace, calling on the United Nations and the international community to pressure Israel into halting the flyovers.
“The Israeli enemy maintains its threats against Lebanon, the latest of which has been the flights over Lebanon’s airspace today, in a new and clear violation to [United Nations] Resolution 1701,” the Lebanon Daily Star quoted President Michel Sleiman as saying. “The international community and the [UN] Security Council, whose officials claim are keen on the stability of Lebanon and the region, should pressure Israel into giving up such practices.”
The Lebanese army said two planes crossed into Lebanese airspace at around 10:20 a.m. and left at 3:05 p.m. It wasn’t clear whether the aircraft were manned or unmanned, but Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that the aircraft made mock raids on several towns in the area.
In March, UN officials said that Israel had doubled its overflights in Lebanese airspace since the start of the year. On March 15, some 25 jets flew north up the coast of Lebanon toward Syria before doubling back.
In one incident in February, the Lebanese army claimed Israeli drones had spent over 17 hours in Lebanese airspace.
Israeli aircraft have been conducting routine flyovers in southern Lebanon since the army’s withdrawal from the territory in 2000, but recent months have seen increased activity amid the worsening Syria crisis and growing concern over the fate of Damascus’s chemical weapons arsenal.
Israel has repeatedly warned that Syria could transfer weapons of mass destruction to Hezbollah, and has indicated that it would not hesitate to prevent such a scenario with military force. In late January, an airstrike reportedly carried out by Israeli warplanes near the Lebanese-Syrian border targeted a shipment of sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles bound for Hezbollah.