From Reuters, Oct. 25:
Berlin: IAF jets fire shots over German ship off coast of Lebanon
Two Israel Air Force warplanes and a German navy vessel have clashed off the Lebanese coast, the Defense Ministry in Berlin said on Wednesday without giving further details.
The Germany daily Der Tagesspiegel earlier on Wednesday quoted a junior German defense minister as telling a parliamentary committee that two Israeli F-16 fighters flew low over the German ship and fired two shots.
The jets also activated infra-red countermeasures to ward off any rocket attack, the paper quoted him as saying, in an advance release from Thursday’s edition.
An Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman said she was checking the report.
Germany assumed command of a United Nations naval force off Lebanon 10 days ago, and has sent eight ships and 1,000 service personnel to join the international peace operation in the region.
The naval force is charged with preventing weapons smuggling and helping maintain a ceasefire between Israel and the Lebanese Islamic militant group Hezbollah.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said earlier Wednesday that the IAF would continue to patrol Lebanese skied in an effort to gather information and prevent terror groups from smuggling weapons from Syria into Lebanon.
Peretz raised the issue on the Knesset plenum agenda, saying, “we see ourselves not just as free, but as having the right to continue carrying out these necessary flights, which are part of our challenge against the flow of arms from the area of the Syrian-Lebanese border.
The defense minister added that in light of Israel’s desire to coordinate these efforts with Lebanon, it has reduced the scope of these flights to a minimum. He said the flights were being carried out with precision to avoid friction with United Nations troops and the Lebanese army. He said the flights presented no threat to the peace or security of the international forces deployed in Lebanon.
In response to threats by French forces to open fire on IAF overflights, Peretz said, “we will in no way take these threats, and we’ve made that clear in conversations with all parties.”
The defense minister said that since the end of the war the Hezbollah has been involved with the rehabilitation of the Lebanese infrastructure, has attempted to smuggle weapons through the Lebanese-Syrian border, and has continued to try to harness aid from external sources. Hezbollah had maintained its stronghold in southern Lebanese areas still closed off to UNIFIL and Lebanese forces.
Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz denies the incident occurred. The headline in the Jerusalem Post reads, Germany: IAF planes attacked warship off Lebanese coast. Prior to the six-day war in 1967, Israel attacked a US ship, the USS Liberty. Israel claims it mistook the Liberty for an Egyptian ship. See also: http://www.ussliberty.org/