Lebanese president says alleged Israeli strikes a ‘declaration of war’

Michel Aoun meets with UN coordinator for Lebanon to discuss airstrikes in Bekaa Valley and drone explosions in Beirut attributed to Israel

Lebanese President Michel Aoun attends a graduation ceremony marking the 74th Army Day, at a military barracks in Beirut's suburb of Fayadiyeh, Lebanon on August 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Lebanese President Michel Aoun attends a graduation ceremony marking the 74th Army Day, at a military barracks in Beirut's suburb of Fayadiyeh, Lebanon on August 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said Monday that airstrikes in his country attributed to Israel were a “declaration of war.”

Aoun made the accusation during a meeting with UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis as regional tensions soared over a series of attacks in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq blamed on Israel’s air force.

“What happened resembles a declaration of war that entitles us to resort to our right to defend our sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity,”  Aoun said, according to Lebanese news outlet Naharnet.

Aoun told Kubis that Israel was responsible for an early Monday morning attack on the Lebanese-Syrian border and a drone explosion in a suburb of Beirut the day before.

Lebanese military intelligence inspects the scene where two drones came down in the vicinity of a Hezbollah media center in the south of the capital Beirut, August 25, 2019. (Anwar Amro/AFP)

Aoun, an ally of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, said Israel was in violation of a UN resolution that ended a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, the last major clash between the two.

“We are people who seek peace, not war, but we do not accept to be threatened by anyone in any manner,” Aoun said.

Arabic media claimed early Monday morning that Israeli aircraft had carried out an airstrike deep inside Lebanon on a base belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, a Syria-based terrorist group that fights alongside Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

The base is located in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, near the border with Syria.

On early Sunday two UAVs crashed in and around a Hezbollah stronghold in southern Beirut, causing damage to an office belonging to the group.

Israel has not taken responsibility for either incident.

The Beirut drone incident came hours after Israel took responsibility for an airstrike in Syria that killed two Hezbollah members, prompting the terror group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah to threaten Israel with a reprisal attack.

Israel said the bombing of an Iran-linked base in Syria on Saturday foiled an imminent Iranian plot to attack the Jewish state with explosives-laden drones.

Broken windows are seen on the 11-floor building that houses the media office of Hezbollah in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, August 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

The string of incidents has raised fears of a widening conflagration in the region after years of Israel restricting its air campaign against Iran-backed fighters to Syria. In recent months Israel has also been blamed for attacks on Iran-backed fighters in Iraq.

On Monday, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri met with defense, interior and military officials for a situational assessment, Reuters reported, citing Hariri’s office.

The prime minister was further planning to meet with ambassadors from the five permanent member countries of the UN Security Council.

Hariri on Sunday condemned Israel for allegedly sending the drones, calling it a “blatant attack on Lebanon’s sovereignty.” But he also urged restraint from Hezbollah, amid fears a reprisal attack could drag the sides back into war.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, speaks during a press conference, in Beirut, Lebanon, November 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

However, Israel is not thought to have bombed Lebanese territory since the 2006 conflict. An airstrike in 2014 attributed to Israel hit Hezbollah targets on the border but it was not clear exactly in which territory the munitions fell.

Israeli warplanes fly over Lebanon regularly and have struck inside neighboring Syria from Lebanese airspace on numerous occasions. Israel also uses drones to monitor Hezbollah activity in southern Lebanon, according to Beirut.

In a further spike in regional violence on Sunday there was an attack on an Iran-linked militia in Iraq, and on Monday Israel bombed a Hamas base in Gaza in response to three rockets being fired into Israel from the Strip.

Netanyahu on Sunday warned neighboring countries that they would be held accountable for any attacks against the Jewish state emanating from their territory.

“We won’t tolerate attacks on Israel from any country in the area. Any country that allows its territory to be used for attacks against Israel will bear the consequences. I stress: The state will bear the consequences,” Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, said during a tour of the Golan Heights with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi.

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