Lebanon’s Aoun: Israeli Drone Strikes Like ‘Declaration of War’

BEIRUT (Reuters) -
A United Nations observation tower is seen on the Lebanese side of the border with Israel, as seen from Kibbutz Misgav Am in northern Israel, Monday. (Reuters/Amir Cohen)

President Michel Aoun said on Monday Lebanon had a right to defend itself after Israeli drone strikes that he likened to a “declaration of war.”

Two drones crashed early on Sunday in Beirut’s southern suburbs, which are dominated by the heavily armed Hezbollah, prompting the Iran-backed movement to warn Israeli soldiers at the border to await a response.

In a Sunday speech, the leader of the Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah issued the toughest threats to his enemy in years and said the drone attacks had launched a “new phase.”

Only hours later, Israeli drones struck a military position belonging to a Palestinian faction in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley before dawn on Monday, the group said.

“What happened was similar to a declaration of war which allows us to resort to our right to defending our sovereignty,” Aoun’s office quoted him as saying on Twitter.

“We are a people seeking peace not war, and we don’t accept anyone threatening us in any war,” added Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah.

The president discussed the “Israeli assault” with the country’s United Nations Special Coordinator Jan Kubis on Monday, the presidency said.

He told Kubis the strikes in the Dahyeh suburbs and in the Bekaa violated U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended a July 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri separately met Lebanon’s interior and defense ministers and army chief on Monday to discuss security issues, his office said, without elaborating.

Hariri, who has said the drones aimed to stir up regional tensions, is also due to meet the ambassadors of the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members, his office said.

Although Israel has not claimed responsibility for the Beirut attack, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah described it as the first Israeli attack inside Lebanon since the 2006 war.

U.N. Resolution 1701 banned all unauthorized weapons between the Litani River in south Lebanon and the U.N.-monitored border between Israel and Lebanon.