Daily low flying Israeli jets over Lebanon spreading jitters

BEIRUT (AP) — Israeli military jets carried out several low flying flights over Beirut as reconnaissance drones also buzzed overhead Sunday in what has become a daily occurrence.

Israel regularly violates Lebanon airspace, often to carry out strikes in neighboring Syria. On Christmas Eve, Israeli jets flew low late into the night, terrorizing Beirut residents who are no strangers to such flights. They were followed by reported Israeli strikes in Syria.

The frequency of low flying warplanes over the capital has intensified in the last two weeks, making residents jittery as tensions run high in the region on the final days of President Donald Trump’s administration.

Israel rarely comments on these reports.

Many fear conflict may erupt in the area before Trump leaves office in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq last year, or to scuttle efforts by the incoming administration of Joe Biden to negotiate with Iran.

On Friday, the Lebanese army recorded an Israeli flight that lasted nearly six hours in the country’s south.

A Twitter account that tracks aircraft movement in the Middle East, #Intel_Sky, has recorded dozens of Israeli jets flying over Lebanon, including mock raids, since the start of the year. #Intel_Sky called Sunday’s flights “mock raids.”

At one point this summer, the Lebanese army said Israel violated its airspace nearly 30 times in two days, flying reconnaissance drones and jets into Lebanese territory.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon says Israel enters Lebanese airspace on a daily basis in violation of U.N. resolutions and the country’s sovereignty.

Between June and October 2020, UNIFIL recorded a daily average of 12.63 airspace violations, totaling 61 hours and 51 minutes in flight time, a significant increase from the previous four months. Drones accounted for approximately 95% of the violations, UNIFIL said.

Israel and Lebanon are technically at war. Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese militant group backed by Iran, is a sworn enemy of Israel and the two have had a series of confrontations, including a full-scale war in 2006.

Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, in a year-end interview, said Israel’s efforts to curb his group’s ability to acquire precision-guided missiles have failed. He boasted that Hezbollah now has twice as many such missiles as it had last year.

Israel has in recent months expressed concern that Hezbollah is trying to establish production facilities to make precision-guided missiles.

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