Israel refuses to capitulate to Lebanese impotency
JERUSALEM - Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Sunday that air force flights over Lebanon would continue because arms smuggling to Lebanese guerrillas has not stopped.
Peretz made the statement to Israel's Cabinet after the commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon termed the overflights a clear violation of the U.N. resolution that ended Israel's monthlong summer war with Hezbollah fighters.
In his remarks, Peretz accused the Lebanese government of failing to carry out its obligations under the resolution to keep weapons from reaching Hezbollah from its Syrian and Iranian backers.
"The accumulating intelligence in our hands points to a rising effort to transfer arms," and so "the legitimacy for overflights increases," Peretz said.
The U.N. cease-fire resolution, which went into effect on Aug. 14, calls for both sides to respect the U.N. boundary drawn in 2000 after Israel ended its 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon.
Israel says it has no choice but to conduct flights across that line because arms continue to flow to Hezbollah and due to the guerrilla group's continued armed presence in southern Lebanon, which, under the resolution, is to become a weapons-free zone.
Up to 15,000 Lebanese army troops and an equal number of U.N. troops have been assigned to create this zone. Last week, Maj. Gen. Alain Pellegrini, leader of the U.N. peacekeeping force, criticized Israel for sending its jets over the area.
Peretz, in response, said on Sunday that the U.N. force was "designed to operate against Hezbollah, not Israel."
"As long as the resolution isn't implemented, there is no other choice" but to keep flying over Lebanon, he said.