UN Blasts Israel Violations of Lebanese Airspace
The United Nations condemned the daily violations of Lebanese airspace by Israel Friday, and hoped it would "quickly" return the body of a Lebanese civilian whose plane was downed after he headed toward Israel last month, reported AFP.
"What we believe is that his body has to be returned quickly," Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy to southern Lebanon, told reporters after meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Mahmud Hammud.
"I consider that the incident is a tragic one and that the man who died was a civilian, but of course he was going across an area where he should not have been," said the UN envoy, who however said he did not discuss the issue with Hammud, said the agency.
Lebanese trainee pilot Estephan Nikolian was killed May 24 when Israeli warplanes downed his two-seater Cessna on the coast of northern Israel after the army said he ignored repeated warnings.
Lebanese officials insisted then that two Israeli aircraft penetrated their country’s airspace and escorted it into north Israel, where it was shot down.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has asked Israeli authorities to return to Lebanon the body the pilot.
Swiss delegate, Henri Fournier, told the Daily Star newspaper on May 28 that the Red Cross had raised the issue with Israeli authorities and was still waiting for an answer.
Fournier was also in contact with the family of Nikolian, the student pilot who flew a Cessna single-engine aircraft without authorization from Beirut International Airport.
Fournier also met with Nikolian's mother, Alice, at the ICRC offices in Beirut, said the paper.
"She asked the ICRC to help her repatriate the remains of her son," Fournier said.
He added that he had contacted the Israeli authorities after receiving a request from a close friend of the Nikolian family.
The Israeli air force has frequently violated Lebanese airspace since the end of Israel's 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon in May 2000.
Since a May 14 anti-Israeli attack by the Lebanese Hizbollah, Israeli warplanes have violated Lebanese airspace nearly everyday.
Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri said last week that Lebanon always respected UN resolutions while Israel turned its back on them.
“Even if we have reservations on UN resolutions, this doesn’t mean we don’t respect them,” he was quoted as saying.
Hariri told a Kuwaiti that Lebanon sought to “strengthen its credibility” before the international community – Albawaba.com
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