Lebanese Speaker condemns Turkish pilot abductions and silence over Israel border infringement
Vehicles of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) are parked at the Turkish engineering construction company's base on August 10, 2013 in the southern Lebanese village of Saitah. (AFP/MAHMOUD ZAYYAT)
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Speaker Nabih Berri condemned the abduction of two Turkish pilots in Beirut on Friday, while questioning the silence over last week's Israeli violation of the Lebanese border, reported As Safir newspaper on Monday.
He told the daily: “Regardless of our position on Turkey's official approach on the kidnapping of the Lebanese pilgrims in Aazaz, the Turkish pilots are innocent and should not be harmed.”
A Turkish pilot and co-pilot were kidnapped by gunmen on Friday.
Six gunmen intercepted a van carrying the Turkish Airlines employees from Rafik Hariri International Airport to a hotel in the Ain Mreisseh seafront at dawn Friday, kidnapping the two pilots - Murat Akpinar and Murat Agca - but leaving the four other crew members behind.
The relatives of the pilgrims held in Aazaz were quick to deny having any links to the abduction.
Eleven pilgrims were kidnapped in Syria's Aleppo region in May 2012 as they were making their way back to Lebanon by land from pilgrimage in Iran.
Two of them have since been released, while the rest remain in Aazaz.
Their relatives have held Turkey responsible for their ongoing abduction.
They have repeatedly vowed to take action against Turkish interests in Lebanon in order to pressure Ankara to release the captives.
Commenting on the Israeli violation on Wednesday, Berri wondered: “Why is it that an uproar is created over Syrian border violations and eery silence prevails over Israeli ones?”
He warned that the ambivalence over the violation has demonstrated that some sides have accepted them and that “the psychological barrier with Israel has been broken in that they no longer view it as an enemy.”
It is no easy feat for Israeli troops to infiltrate Lebanese territory by 400 meters, meaning that the latest violation should be considered “blatant” and it should not be dealt with lightly, said the speaker.
He criticized the Lebanese official silence over the issue, while United Nations Interim Force Commander Major General Paolo Serra was quick to condemn it.
Four Israeli soldiers were injured in a landmine blast along the northern border with Lebanon, media reports said on Wednesday.
A Lebanese army communique said that the “Israeli patrol violated Lebanon's sovereignty."
"An infantry patrol of the Israeli army penetrated 400 meters inside Lebanon in the Labbouneh area at 00:24 local time," the statement said.
"An explosion took place and the soldiers were wounded, with blood found at the scene. A military committee has opened an investigation in coordination with UNIFIL," the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, it said.