Lebanon complains to UN over alleged Israeli strikes from its airspace

Defense minister says fighter jets buzzed Beirut, panicking locals; civilian planes forced to briefly divert, official says

The moon rises over the capital city of Beirut as it remains in darkness during a power outage, Lebanon, August 19, 2021.(AP/ Hassan Ammar)
The moon rises over the capital city of Beirut as it remains in darkness during a power outage, Lebanon, August 19, 2021.(AP/ Hassan Ammar)

Lebanon complained to the United Nations after Israeli jets allegedly violated its airspace to carry out an airstrike on targets in Syria late Thursday, Beirut’s defense  minister said.

Zeina Akar said Israeli planes “blatantly violated Lebanon’s airspace at low altitude, causing a state of panic among citizens,” Reuters reported early Friday.

The complaint came hours after Damascus residents reported hearing loud explosions from alleged airstrikes targeting sites in the Syrian capital and the Homs area north of the capital.

Syrian state television claimed its air defense systems managed to knock down most of what it said were Israeli missiles that had been fired from near Beirut.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a Britain-based war monitor, said that “Israeli missiles targeted arms depots and military positions of” Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, between Damascus and Homs.

Lebanese media also reported two missiles fell in the Qalamoun region on the rugged border between Lebanon and Syria, though it was unclear if the projectiles were from the alleged airstrikes or errant interceptors.

Videos shared on social media purported to show Israeli fighter jets flying over Lebanese airspace.

Akar said she had complained to the UN over the flights, which she said violated UN Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

She also urged the UN to act against the Israeli overflights, Reuters reported.

Lebanese soldiers inspect remains of a Syrian surface-to-air missile that had apparently been fired at Israeli jets during an extensive air campaign against Iranian targets in Syria, which landed in the southern Lebanese village of Hebarieh, on May 10, 2018. (Ali Dia/AFP)

The Israeli army rarely acknowledges its strikes in Syria and a spokesperson told AFP it does “not comment on foreign media information.”

During the alleged strike, two civilians planes en route to Beirut were forced to briefly divert their paths, a Lebanese official told Reuters.

Lebanon’s state news agency reported earlier Thursday that Israeli jets had flown over several cities in the country, including Beirut. It also said Lebanon had complained to the UN peacekeeping force on the border with Israel over reconnaissance flights over its airspace near Beirut, and published a picture showing circular trails of smoke in the sky, allegedly from an Israeli flight.

Lebanon regularly raises the issue of Israeli reconnaissance flights violating its airspace with the UN.

Illustrative: An Israeli F-16 jet is pictured above the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, near the Gaza Strip, on November 12, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The alleged strikes came hours after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said his group would begin importing fuel from Iran, defying US sanctions and all but daring Israel or the US to stop the shipment.

“The vessel, from the moment it sails in the coming hours until it enters (Mediterranean) waters, will be considered Lebanese territory,” he said during a televised speech to mark the Shiite Muslim commemoration of Ashura. “To the Americans and Israelis, I say: it’s Lebanese territory.”

Former prime minister Saad Hariri warned Thursday that Nasrallah’s remarks could be “dangerous.”

“Iranian vessels will carry additional dangers and sanctions for the Lebanese,” he said in a statement released by his office.

Lebanese soldiers are seen at a gas station in the capital Beirut on August 14, 2021, after soldiers were deployed to force several stations to reopen their doors. (ANWAR AMRO / AFP)

Lebanon has been grappling with serious fuel shortages that have paralyzed the country, and was rocked by a blast at a fuel tank last week that killed dozens.

Israel rarely carries out strikes against Lebanon, but has been reported to use its airspace in order to avoid air defense systems stationed in Syria, including ones manned by Russian soldiers.

There have been indications of growing Russian unease over Israel’s air campaign in Syria, which has been aimed at keeping Iranian forces and proxy groups from establishing a foothold in the country.

In July, a Russian military officer said his military had helped Syria intercept four Israeli missiles using the Buk 2ME air defense system.

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