U.N. complains to Israel about violations of Lebanese airspace

UNITED NATIONS Tue May 7, 2013 1:47pm EDT

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon has protested to Israel after it observed increased violations of Lebanese air space by Israel, which carried out raids in Syria to target what it said were Iranian missiles bound for Hezbollah militants.

Intelligence sources said Israel on Friday and Sunday attacked Iranian-supplied missiles stored near the Syrian capital of Damascus, awaiting transport to Hezbollah, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"UNIFIL (the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon) says that in the course of the past week it has observed a higher number of Israeli air violations over Lebanese air space," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters on Tuesday.

"The U.N. Interim Force has lodged firm protests with the Israeli Defense Force on this matter asking them to cease the over flights," Nesirky said.

Lebanon, in a letter obtained by Reuters on Monday, also called on the U.N. Security Council to "compel Israel to halt its violations of Lebanon's sovereignty by air, sea and land, and carry out all its obligations in accordance with Resolution 1701.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 halted the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in southern Lebanon, which remains a stronghold of Hezbollah militants. Lebanon regularly accuses Israel of violating its airspace.

Turkey and Iran have also condemned the Israeli strikes on Syria.

Syria is engulfed in a two-year civil war, which began as peaceful protests against Assad that turned violent when his forces tried to crush the revolt. The United Nations says more than 70,000 people have been killed.

Israel is reluctant to take sides in Syria's two-year-old civil war for fear its actions would boost Islamists who are even more hostile to it than the Assad family, which has maintained a stable standoff with the Jewish state for decades.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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