French peacekeepers in southern Lebanon as part of the UNIFIL force came close to shooting down Israeli F-15 fighters which nose-dived repeatedly over their positions. The incident took place on October 31 but has only now come to light.
The French government has demanded that Israel stop mock raids over Lebanon after French peacekeepers came within seconds of shooting down Israeli warplanes.
Israeli officials said the flights were needed to monitor Lebanese compliance with UN demands, but the French Defence Minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, said the attitude of the Israeli planes was “absolutely inadmissible” after Israeli F-15 fighters nose-dived repeatedly over French peacekeepers’ positions in southern Lebanon on 31 October.
“Our troops barely avoided a catastrophe,” Alliot-Marie told the French parliament. “Our troops find themselves in a position where they have to fire in legitimate self defence.”
France has now summoned the Israeli ambassador over the incident and launched a complaint. The Israeli military has so far denied any knowledge of the incident. This is not the first time France has warned Israel about violations of Lebanese airspace in defiance of Security Council Resolution 1701, but this seems to be the closest the French have come to being forced to defend themselves. Israeli jets were also involved in an incident with German warships patrolling off the Lebanese coast last month. Two F-16s allegedly fired shots and anti missile flares as they buzzed the vessel.
Israel seems determined to provoke some sort of retaliation from the UNIFIL peacekeepers. If these provokations are happening with the tacit agreement of the USA (I have no idea if this is the case or not), then there is a potential conflict of interest looming because America is spending $40 million to train and equip the Lebanese army in order for it to better defend Lebanese territory so Hizbollah can withdraw.