Saturday, January 27, 2007

Israeli warplanes intrude on Beirut airspace

Israeli warplanes intrude on Beirut airspace
Jewish state claims to have uncovered, destroyed hizbullah bunkers
By Iman Azzi
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: As Beirut's curfew ended at 6 a.m. Friday and Lebanese looked forward to a day of calm following Thursday's deadly clashes, Israeli forces conducted a series of overflights across Lebanon, including the capital, in what was for many a stark reminder of the summer 2006 war. An Israeli plane was seen "circling at a low altitude" off the coast of Beirut early Friday, in violation of the terms of the cease-fire ending the war with Israel, a Lebanese Army source told The Daily Star. This was the first time since October 30 that an Israeli plane was detected near the capital, but a spokesperson for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFL) told The Daily Star that Israel violates Lebanese airspace south of the Litani River, where UNIFIL operates "almost every day." Liam McDowall said that over the last week there have been "numerous reports of alleged violations" of Lebanese airspace by Israel, all of which constitute breaches of UN Resolution 1701, which ended the 34-day war. The army said an Israeli drone flew over Bayada, near Naqoura, in the early morning, circling the area before flying over Ilma as-Shaab, a border town, before heading back to Israel. On Friday afternoon, two other planes flew over Lebanese waters and Naqoura.

In a separate development on Friday, the Israeli Army claimed that it had blown up two Hizbullah bunkers, both located on the Israeli side of the UN-demarcated Blue Line. Israeli forces "uncovered two connected bunkers which had been used by Hizbullah," the Israeli Army said in a statement. "Inside the bunkers, forces found food, shovels and other equipment. The bunkers were detonated in a controlled environment by [Israeli Army] engineering forces." Last month, the Israeli Army said it had discovered a backpack filled with weapons belonging to Hizbullah's in the area between the Blue Line and a border fence constructed by Israel, but Hizbullah never claimed the backpack. UNIFIL sources confirmed the presence of Israeli soldiers but said they did not know who the bunkers belonged to. The Israeli Army "informed the UN through liaison channels of the activity," McDowall said. "UNIFIL did not observe any activity in part because the area concerned is deep in a [valley]," he added. The Israelis were in the general area of Rmeich and outside of the view of UN observation towers. The National News Agency reported that in the village of Zibddine, in the Shebaa Farms, Israeli soldiers opened fire on the surrounding area. Israeli forces also patrolled the area around the border village of Ghajar, NNA said. - With AFP

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