WASHINGTON – UNIFIL forces have no intention of firing at Israeli planes patrolling Beirut’s skies, United Nations spokesperson Stefan Dujarric said Thursday. Furthermore, the UN has no plans to change the rules of engagement to permit the targeting of IAF planes.
Dujarric approached Ynet following the report of comments attributed to UNIFIL head French Major General Alain Pellegrini, that it was possible that opening fire at Israeli aircraft in Lebanon would be allowed.
Pellegrini, who was quoted by French news agencies, noted the possibility the UN might amend soldiers’ guidelines in order to deal with the IAF’s aerial sorties.
The UN spokesperson, however, clarified that the quote was taken out of context.
“Defense Minister Amir Peretz spoke two days ago to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and said UNIFIL soldiers were threatening to shoot Israeli Air Force planes. That was the backdrop against which the question was posed to Gen. Pellegrini during a press briefing. He explained that the French anti-aircraft batteries were set up for defense purposes only,” Dujarric said.
“To change the rules of engagement, a political decision must be made by the UN secretary general and the nations that enlisted soldiers to the UNIFIL force,” Dujarric explained.
'Not on the agenda'
According to Dujarric, the reason the French forces were equipped with anti-aircraft batteries in Lebanon was because they absorbed many losses among French soldiers serving in the Ivory Coast when they were attacked by war helicopters in November 2004.
“The are allowed only to fire in self defense in case they are attacked from the air – it doesn’t matter who attacks, a warplane or an unmanned drone,” the UN spokesperson said.
He stressed that Israel’s sorties into Lebanese air space was a matter that “will be first and foremost dealt with through diplomatic channels.”