Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06BEIRUT3602
2006-11-09 19:07:00
SECRET
Embassy Beirut
Cable title:  

LEBANON: ISRAELI OVERFLIGHTS

Tags:  MARR PGOV PREL LE IS 
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RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 003602 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/MARCHESE/HARDING
STATE FOR NEA/ELA, NEA/FO:ATACHCO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/07/2016
TAGS: MARR PGOV PREL LE IS
SUBJECT: LEBANON: ISRAELI OVERFLIGHTS


Classified By: Jeffrey D. Feltman, Ambassador. Reason: Section 1.4 (d
).

SUMMARY
-------

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 003602

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/MARCHESE/HARDING
STATE FOR NEA/ELA, NEA/FO:ATACHCO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/07/2016
TAGS: MARR PGOV PREL LE IS
SUBJECT: LEBANON: ISRAELI OVERFLIGHTS


Classified By: Jeffrey D. Feltman, Ambassador. Reason: Section 1.4 (d
).

SUMMARY
--------------


1. (C) October saw a notable increase in the number and
intensity of Israeli overflights in Lebanese airspace. The
overflights were noted with indignation by politicians and
the press, and documented by UNIFIL. According to our
contacts, the IAF has conducted the flights beyond the south,
including the Biqa' Valley area and Beirut, and there has
been an increased use of low-level reconnaissance flights and
reports of "mock attacks." The continued overflights are
politically embarrassing to the Lebanese government, and have
been seen as a reflection of UNIFIL's ability to enforce the
terms of UNSC Resolution 1701. Pressure is building from the
EU, the UN and the GOL to find a way to curb the frequency of
overflights. End Summary.

INCREASE IN FREQUENCY AND INTENSITY
OF ISRAELI OVERFLIGHTS
--------------


2. (C) October saw a marked increase in overflights by
Israeli combat jets into Lebanon. The United Nations Interim
Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) reported 52 separate overflights in
October; with 31 reported in the last two weeks of the month.
In comparison, UNIFIL reported 33 overflights for all of
September. Our contacts tell us that what started out as
high-altitude flights monitoring the border area in southern
Lebanon after the conflict has now grown into a variety of
overflights, including overt low-level reconnaissance
flights. The Foreign Ministry shared with us its records for
October indicating 43 overflights, of which 11 were by "jet
warplanes," 31 by "surveillance planes" and 1 by a helicopter.


3. (C) Drawing extra concern has been the reported
development of what observers insist are "mock attack"
flights over the Biqa' Valley area and Beirut. Whatever
these flights are, these low-level flyovers have created
resentment among those who see the flights as an attempt by
Israel to intimidate or humiliate Lebanon. Some have
speculated that the Israelis are using the low-level flights

to exert pressure on the Lebanese government to do more in
gaining the release of the two Israeli soldiers captured by
Hizballah, rather than for surveillance. Statements in the
Israeli press about "training missions" over Lebanon have
been widely reported in the Lebanese media.


4. (C) The overflights are widely seen as weakening the
Siniora government politically, in the face of the opposition
criticism that the Siniora government cannot defend Lebanon's
borders and airspace. The Prime Minister has told us that he
sees any overflight is a violation of UN Security Council
Resolution 1701.

UNIFIL'S CONCERNS GROWING LOUDER
--------------


5. (S) Early after the July-August war, UNIFIL officers told
us that their organization took a behind-the-scenes approach
with Israel, reasoning that public attention to the
overflights might call into question UNIFIL,s ability to
enforce the terms of Resolution 1701. As overflights have
increased, UNIFIL has put forward a much more vigorous public
approach to confront the Israelis. Recently, UNIFIL Force
Commander Major-General Alain Pellegrini publicly voiced his
serious concern over the increasing number of overflights
taking place over the areas of UNIFIL operations. Pellegrini
hinted at changing the rules of engagement for his forces to
allow the use of force to stop overflights. (Note: Whatever
the appeal locally of Pellegrini's statement, UN officials
have publicly indicated that only UN headquarters has the
authority to change the rules of engagement. End Note.)


6. (S) According to UNIFIL, the Israelis indicate that the
increase in overflights has served to monitor increasing arms
smuggling. UN Representative Geir Pedersen countered
Israel's rationale for the flights by stating that if the
Israelis are "gathering such information via overflights they
should share it with the UN so that UNIFIL can address it."
(Note: UNIFIL's area of operation is from the Litani river

BEIRUT 00003602 002 OF 002


south to the UN-demarcated "blue line" that confirmed Israeli
withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. The Biqa' Valley along the
Syrian border, the site of a great deal of reported
smuggling, is outside UNIFIL's area of operation. End Note.)


7. (S) UNIFIL has recognized the sensitivity of the Lebanese
government's political situation and also the need to avoid
any potential incident involving retaliation from either
side. UNIFIL has increased the diplomatic pressure, in
conjunction with the European Union, to try to convince the
GOI that the overflights are counter-productive and may serve
Hizballah's interests by giving them an excuse not to comply
with Resolution 1701. Some of this may have had an effect;
reported overflights were down in the first week of November.
FELTMAN