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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 November 2006, 09:20 GMT
French nearly fired at Israelis
Israeli warplane (photo: 23 July 2006)
Israeli jets have been involved in several incidents over Lebanon
French troops serving in Lebanon have been only seconds away from firing on Israeli aircraft, the French defence minister says.

Michele Alliot-Marie told parliament the jets dived towards UN positions in October and were perceived as a threat.

"Two seconds later there would have been a shot against the aircraft which were directly menacing our forces," the defence minister said.

France has previously complained about Israel violating Lebanese air space.

Ms Alliot-Marie last month called the intrusions "extremely dangerous".

It is a miracle that nothing serious happened, because there could have been a response on the part of French troops
Philippe Douste-Blazy
French foreign minister

She raised her concerns with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Jean-Marie Guehenno, the French head of the UN peacekeeping operations.

French troops are in Lebanon as part of the UN peacekeeping mission, which was expanded in a UN-brokered deal that ended a 34-day conflict between Israel and Hezbollah militants earlier this year.

The head of France's troops in Lebanon even suggested their rules of engagement might need to be changed so that they could reply with force to Israel's air violations.

Ms Alliot-Marie said of the October incident that a "catastrophe" was avoided only thanks "to the judiciousness of our troops".

The foreign minister said France would issue a caution to Israel.

Ship 'buzzed'

Israeli warplanes have been involved in a number of recent incidents in the region.

Eight jets staged mock raids on Hezbollah targets in Beirut, flying low and diving, at the end of October, according Lebanese security forces.

Reports from Germany alleged that Israeli planes buzzed a German warship off the Lebanese coast, and fired shots nearby. Israel said the jets were merely investigating an unreported take-off.

Israel has previously warned that it would continue to fly over Lebanon to prevent Hezbollah from rearming with weapons smuggled from Syria.


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