Israel Resource Review 19th November, 2006


Israel Cabinet Secretary: Israeli Overflights in Lebanon Represent no Threat Whatsover to UNIFIL: Nothwithstanding, UNIFIL Feels Threatened

Today, the Israeli cabinet secretary assured the Israeli press corp that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon has no plans whatsover to attack intruding Israeli military aircraft. The Israeli official made it cleat that these Israeli overflights of Lebanon are for very limited reconnaissance missions, and that they are not meant to be hostile to the UN force in Southern Lebanon.

However, the Middle East News Line has learned that UN officials said the French contingent of the international peace-keeping force in Lebanon has been on alert for Israeli military overflights. They said French commanders have been preparing anti-aircraft batteries to fire against Israel Air Force warplanes.

"The anti-aircraft unit of the [French] battalion took initial preparatory steps to respond to these actions," UNIFIL spokesman Milos Strugar said.

Strugar said UNIFIL has reported increasing Israeli violations of Lebanon's air space over the last week. He said 17 Israeli air violations were recorded on November 17, most of them over the area deployed by the French battalion.

This was the first time UNIFIL, comprised of 9,000 peace-keepers, warned of attacks on Israeli warplanes. On November 13, France reported that its contingent in Lebanon nearly fired surface-to-air missiles against Israeli aircraft on October 31.

"They stipulate that in implementing their mandate, all UNIFIL troops may exercise the inherent right of self-defense and take all necessary action to protect UN personnel, facilities, installations and equipment," Strugar told Agence France-Presse.

Israel has acknowledged air operations in Lebanon. Israeli officials said UNIFIL has failed to stop the flow of weapons from Syria to Hizbullah strongholds in Lebanon.

Over the weekend, UNIFIL reported the capture of 17 Katyusha-class rockets in Lebanon. A UN spokesman said the Lebanese Army was alerted.

The UN has reported overflights by Israeli F-15 and F-16 fighter-jets trhoughout November. In one violation, Israel sent two Israeli reconnaissance RC12 aircraft near Tyre, the headquarters of the French battalion.

Over the weekend, Lebanese media reported Israeli air operations and mock attacks around the southern Lebanese towns of Jezzine, Nabatiya and Tufah.

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Hagai Huberman
Correspondent, Hatzofeh

[In July, 2005, I took reporters to the porch of a Jewish home in the Northern Gaza community of Alei Sinai and took a look at the Ashkelon power station where we could easily see how close that station was to Alei Sinai, and that this would become a perfect place for launching missiles into Israel after the withdrawal. And that has come to pass. - db]

The Kassam rockets that were fired at Ashkelon two weeks ago and which led to the fatal shelling of Beit Hanoun were dual-engine rockets, and not single-engine ones, said intelligence officials.

One of the rockets landed near a school in the southern part of the city and was identified by forensic experts as a dual-engine rocket with a 12.5 kilometer range, which is three kilometers more than the "regular" Kassam rocket has.

Security officials noted, however, that these dual-engine rockets have been fired previously. A similar rocket was fired on July 4 in the middle of Operation Summer Rains. That rocket was fired out of the ruins of Elei Sinai and Dugit and landed near a high school in the heart of Ashkelon. Another rocket of its type fell a number of days beforehand near the Ashkelon cemetery.

GSS Director Yuval Diskin warned at the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last week, prior to the death of Faina Slotzker from Sderot, that Hamas had upgraded rockets in its arsenal that had a 12.7 kilometer range and which easily could strike at Ashkelon and areas north of Ashkelon.

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