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Israel jets fly over Lebanon despite appeal

Written by: Staff

BEIRUT, Oct 23: Israeli warplanes swooped low over Lebanon today, a day after the Jewish state rejected a call by France's defence minister to halt violations of its neighbour's airspace.

The planes conducted mock raids over much of southern Lebanon and residents saw them flying low over the capital Beirut, but neither Hezbollah guerrillas nor the Lebanese army fired anti-aircraft rounds at them as they have done in previous years.

Israeli jets have routinely flown over Lebanon since a 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah ended on August. 14 with a UN-sponsored truce and the expansion of a UN peacekeeping force, including a French contingent, in southern Lebanon.

The Lebanese government and the United Nations say the overflights, which Israel had continued to conduct after it ended its 22-year occupation of south Lebanon in 2000, violate both the latest truce and the terms of Israel's earlier pullout.

Israel said yesterday its combat planes would continue to fly over southern Lebanon to ensure that weapons are not smuggled into southern Lebanon from Syria to resupply Hezbollah.

At the United Nations on Friday, French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie called Israel's violations of Lebanese airspace ''extremely dangerous'' and said they should stop immediately.

She said an Israeli aircraft may mistakenly be seen by UN troops as having hostile intent, possibly triggering a ''very serious incident''.


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