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Hezbollah drone shows need for defense strategy: Sleiman

President Michel Sleiman during a Cabinet session at the presidential summer seat in Beiteddine, in the Chouf Mountains southeast of Beirut. (File/The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: A Hezbollah-dispatched reconnaissance plane over Israel demonstrates the need for a defense strategy that would benefit from the resistance party’s strength, President Michel Sleiman said Friday.

“The process of dispatching a drone over Israeli enemy territory shows a dire need to approve a defense strategy that would look into the benefits of managing and making use of the resistance’s capabilities,” Sleiman said in a statement Friday.

He stressed that Hezbollah’s potential should be used to “safeguard Lebanon and establish a mechanism for issuing a decision to use these capabilities exclusively and under any circumstances in line with national interests and the military's defense plans and needs.”

He was responding to a declaration made by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah Thursday that the Lebanese resistance group was behind an Iranian-made drone that Israel shot down over the weekend.

Sleiman said it was time that Israeli violations of the Lebanese airspace stop.

“The daily Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty and airspace are subject of complaints with the U.N. Security Council,” he said.

“It is urgent today that [these violations] be immediately stopped and brought to an end in line with Resolution 1701 and in order to maintain peace and security in the region.”

Turning to Syria, Sleiman reiterated the need for sparing Lebanese towns from Syrian shelling, in the wake of random bombardment of the Bekaa border region of Mashareeh al-Qaa.

Former Prime Minister Salim Hoss hailed Hezbollah’s weekend mission over Israel.

“The distance the plane crossed before being detected and shot down was enough to indicate that the resistance has been able to develop its technical capabilities, which enabled it to confront the Israeli challenges efficiently,” Hoss said in a statement. "Hence, we cannot but salute the resistance for its capabilities, which are a pride for all Lebanese and Arabs,” Hoss added.

The moderate politician said he hoped that the “resistance will continue to develop its capabilities so that Arabs can eventually defeat the brutal enemy and liberate their land."

Future MP Samir Jisr, however, said Hezbollah’s aerial operation was intended to divert attention from the real problem.

“Flying a plane over Israel is intended to shift attention from Syria and Hezbollah’s involvement there,” Jisr told the Voice of Lebanon radio station Friday.

Fellow Future MP Ahmad Fatfat slammed Hezbollah’s operation, saying Nasrallah’s speech “proves that Lebanon will remain an Iranian platform as long as [Tehran] wants that.”

“This is really a very serious situation as Nasrallah tried to eliminate the meaning of the Lebanese state, as if he is seeking to lure Israel [into war],” Fatfat said in remarks to local channel MTV.

The Lebanese Forces agreed that the attack was a provocation.

“The reconnaissance plane Hezbollah dispatched over Israel has a military and political meaning,” said Wehbi Qatisha, advisor to Lebanese Forces head Samir Geagea.

The operation is also “an invitation for an Israeli attack on Lebanon,” he argued.

 

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