Lebanon reports heavy presence of Israeli jets in airspace

BEIRUT Wed Jan 30, 2013 5:55am EST

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon said on Wednesday Israeli jets had flown over its territory overnight, part of apparently increased air activity which comes as Israel has expressed concern about weapons in neighboring Syria falling out of government control.

A Lebanese army statement said that four Israeli planes entered Lebanese air space at 4.30 p.m. (9:30 a.m ET) on Tuesday. They were replaced four hours later by another group of planes which overflew southern Lebanon until 2 a.m. and a third mission took over, finally leaving at 7.55 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

Lebanon frequently complains that Israeli jets overfly its territory. However the recent activity was much more concentrated than usual.

There was no explanation for the operations in the region, bordering southern Syria. The statement made no mention of planes entering Syrian airspace.

Israel's vice premier Silvan Shalom said on Sunday that any sign that Syria's grip on its chemical weapons is slipping, as President Bashar al-Assad fights rebels trying to overthrow him, could trigger Israeli military strikes.

(Reporting by Dominic Evans; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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