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Israeli warplanes in 'incident' with German ship off Lebanon: military

AFP | October 25 2006

Two Israeli warplanes were involved in an armed incident with a German ship patrolling Lebanon's waters as part of the UN force in the Arab country, the German military told AFP.

A spokesman for the command of the German mission in Lebanon said it was investigating the incident which took place on Monday.

According to Thursday's edition of the Tagesspiegel newspaper, two Israeli F-16 warplanes fired shots as well as anti-missile defence flares while flying low over the German vessel.

The newspaper said the incident had been reported to parliament on Wednesday by a state secretary in the defence ministry, Christian Schmidt.

In Israel, Defence Minister Amir Peretz denied his country's planes had opened fire near a German ship, in a telephone call with German counterpart Franz Josep Jung.

"No Israeli plane opened fire at a German ship and Israel has no intention of attacking the German forces," Peretz said, according to his spokesman.

The defence minister also proposed closer cooperation between the Israeli military and the German naval force to Jung, whom he is due to meet in Israel next week.

France and the United Nations this week warned Israel that it was endangering the multinational peace mission in Lebanon by sending its fighter planes into Lebanese airspace.

Police in Lebanon have claimed that there were more Israeli flights over their country on Monday than on any other day since the end of the Jewish state's 34-day war with Hezbollah.

Peretz said at the weekend that the flights through Lebanese airspace would continue because of alleged arms smuggling to Hezbollah since the end of the war on August 14.

Germany is heading the naval component of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon but has refused to contribute ground troops in a bid to avoid clashes with Israeli forces because of lingering sensitivities over the Holocaust.

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