Lebanon Army: Israeli fighter planes penetrated Lebanese air space
Lebanese media says Israel Air Force jets entered air space in south, then flew over number of areas in three separate missions; no confirmation of report, which comes days after after Netanyahu warned that Syrian chemical weapons could fall into Hezbollah hands in Lebanon.
Israel Air Force jets reportedly flew over Lebanon's air space in three separate missions late Tuesday and early Wednesday, Lebanese media reported. There was no confirmation of the report from Israel.
A Lebanese army statement said that four Israeli planes entered Lebanese air space at 4:30 P.M. on Tuesday. They were replaced four hours later by another group of planes which flew over southern Lebanon until 2 A.M. A third mission then took over, finally leaving at 7:55 A.M. on Wednesday morning.
The report comes just a few days after the Lebanon Army reported that the IAF had violated Lebanon's airspace on Saturday in four different incidents. The Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star reported that IAF fighter jets were seen flying around the Beka'a Valley.
Also Saturday, the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal said that an explosion struck a weapons storage facility in an area of southern Lebanon controlled by Hezbollah. The report was not confirmed by Lebanon's government or by the Lebanese army. The latter said it had conducted a number of controlled explosions on Saturday of munitions left over from the Second Lebanon War.
According to the daily, the explosion took place in the small town of Machghara, located in the Beka'a Valley. It said that a cloud of smoke was seen rising from the site, which was quickly cordoned off by Hezbollah forces.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned his cabinet ministers of the risk that chemical weapons from Syria could be falling into the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
"It is necessary to look at our surroundings, both at what is happening with Iran and its proxies, and what is happening in other arenas - lethal weaponry in Syria, which is steadily breaking up," Netanyahu said during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.
The commander of the Israel Air Force, Major General Amir Eshel on Tuesday issued his own warning over the volatility of Syria and its weapons. Addressing the international space conference in Herzliya, Eshel described Syria as a "country falling apart", adding: "Nobody has any idea right now what is going to happen in Syria on the day after, and how the country is going to look. This [sectarian crisis] is happening in a place with a huge weapons arsenal, some of which are new and advanced, and some of which are not conventional."
The "direct threats" against the Israeli front could come from far away, Eshel added, and could include ground, naval missiles, and air missiles, among other weapons.
Following Netanyahu's warning about Syria this week, there has been an increased demand for gas mask kits among the Israeli public. The Israel Postal Company, which has been distributing the kits in the center of the country, says it has received double the number of requests since Netanyahu made his remarks on Sunday.
Some 4,000 kits were distributed on Tuesday alone, compared to an average of 1,400 daily last week.
Around 4,700,000 kits have been distributed in Israel in recent years, as part of a new government plan to equip the public. That program will end in a few months, and due to lack of budget, it is not clear when it will resume.