Witnesses: Syrian gunners open fire at Israeli warplanes in eastern Lebanon
Israeli warplanes overflew Syrian military positions in eastern Lebanon on Monday, drawing anti-aircraft fire, Lebanese security officials said.
No planes were hit, and it was not immediately clear if the fire came from Syrian or Lebanese soldiers, the officials said.
Israeli flights over Lebanon have been a common occurrence since the Israeli army withdrew from southern Lebanon in May 2000. On Monday, four Israeli planes flew over the strategic Dahr el-Baidar mountain pass, about 25 kilometers east of the Lebanese capital, the officials were quoted as saying by AP.
Witnesses in the area said Syrian gunners opened fire at the aircraft. The report could not be independently confirmed. It should be noted, however, that the Lebanese army lacks a sufficient air defense system, and must depend on Syrian assistance.
Despite United Nations criticism, Israeli planes regularly fly into Lebanese skies, sometimes drawing anti-aircraft fire from Syrian and Iranian-backed Hizbullah. However, according to MSNBC, Monday’s mock run was a multiple pronged mock raid — a marked departure from the high-flying jets that frequently shake Beirut with sonic booms as they pass over.
In a recent interview with Jane’s Defense Weekly, the Lebanese Defense Minister, Khalil Harawi, disclosed the commanders of the Syrian and Lebanese armies were consulting on the best air defense strategy.
”[Currently] the army is responding with anti aircraft guns, but they are not firing missiles yet,” stated the minister. “This will come in time. What concerns Lebanon concerns Syria, and what concerns Syria concerns Lebanon; so this will happen in time,” said Harawi.
In a related development, Hizbullah fired several anti-aircraft shells at Israeli jets flying within Israeli territory Monday afternoon. Fragments fell in nearby Shlomi, causing no injury or damage, Israel Radio reported. (Albawaba.com)