April 24, 2008
The Israel Air Force has dramatically escalated flights over Lebanese air space, in violation of international law.
The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) says the daily number of Israeli air violations surged from 282 in February to 692 in March.
In the first two weeks of April the number has surged again to 476.
“The overflights constitute violations of Lebanese sovereignty and the Blue Line and continue to undermine the credibility of UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces,” the UN Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Angela Kane, told the Security Council on Wednesday night.
“The Government of Israel has continued to claim the flights are carried out for security reasons. My representatives in the region and I have regularly continued to reiterate our concern and call on Israel to cease the increasing number of overflights, which stand in violation of Security Council resolutions,” she said.
The Israeli flights over Lebanon have been going on for decades, despite international protests.
When the Lebanon war of 2006 came to an end a negotiated ceasefire which translated into UN Resolution 1701 was supposed to bring them to an end. This was so only for a matter of weeks before the Israel Air Force was back in business.
At that time international condemnation of the flights escalated however Israel was undeterred.
“They can protest for as long as they like. Our reconnaissance flights will continue,” then deputy defence minister Ephraim Sneh said at the time.
“These are not agreed flights but operations carried out to locate enemies, terrorists,” he said.
“The fact there was a ceasefire in Lebanon has not transformed this country into another Switzerland.”
The minister was speaking a day after France, which commands the UN peacekeeping force overseeing the truce in Lebanon, and the UN, pressed Israel to halt the overflights, which they called a violation of the ceasefire.
A UN statement issued in the name of special envoy to Lebanon, Norwegian Geir Pedersen, condemned the persistent violations of Lebanese air space.
“Geir Pedersen expresses his serious concern at the continuing overflights by Israel which constitute a breach of Lebanese sovereignty and specifically of Security Council Resolution 1701,” it said.
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