France calls IAF overflights in Lebanon 'extremely dangerous'
French Defense Minister: French observers in Lebanon may mistake IAF planes for enemy aircraft.
Israeli overflights of Lebanese air space are "extremely dangerous" because French-led UN peacekeepers on the ground could see them as hostile acts and fire in self-defense, France's defense minister said Friday.
French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told a news conference that the violations of Lebanese air space could give others an excuse not to obey a cease-fire imposed by the UN Security Council to end this summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah.
"I remind that the violations of the airspace are extremely dangerous," Alliot-Marie said. "They are dangerous first because they may be felt as hostile by forces of the coalition that could be brought to retaliate in cases of self defense and it would be a very serious incident."
Alliot-Marie added that there has been a 48 hour pause in the overflights.
Israel contends its overflights do not contradict UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which included the cease-fire that brought an end to 34 days of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah on August 14.
The resolution calls for both sides to respect the boundary known as the Blue Line drawn by the UN after Israel ended its 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000.
On Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz told a parliamentary committee on Monday that French peacekeepers in Lebanon have warned Israel that their jets may not remain immune if they continue to violate Lebanese airspace.
Alliot-Marie was explicit that the overflights were violations that must stop.
She said they are not in Israel's interest because they "could be used as pretexts for some people so that these people themselves don't enforce the resolution."
The defense minister spoke a day after French Major Geneneral Alain Pellegrini, who leads the UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, said the overflights are a major concern and a clear violation of the resolution.
France has deployed anti-aircraft missiles in southern Lebanon, and at the moment they can only be used for self-defense for French soldiers serving in the UN force.
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