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Israel Continues Overflights of Lebanon

Israeli warplanes flew missions over southern Lebanon and parts of Beirut, one day after Israeli officials rejected calls by the French government to halt the overflights.

Tensions are building over the Israeli overflights that have been occurring on an almost daily basis since Israel and Hezbollah militants ended hostilities on August 14, after a U.N. mediated ceasefire took effect.

Speaking at the United Nations last week, French Defense Minister Michelle Alliot-Marie called the Israeli overflights extremely dangerous, saying they were a violation of Lebanese airspace.

Her comments followed those of the French commander of U.N. ground forces in southern Lebanon, who said his troops might have to respond to the overflights.

Israel has rejected the criticism. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev says the overflights are for intelligence gathering and are necessary to monitor what he describes as "violations of the U.N. ceasefire."

"Unfortunately the Israeli overflights of Lebanon are necessary because of continued violations of the U.N. resolution 1701, which brought about the cease fire - violations by the Lebanese side," he said.

Regev says Israel has met its obligations under the ceasefire, but Lebanon and Hezbollah have not.

"I point to the fact that that the two Israeli servicemen being held in Lebanon are still being held hostage. I point to the fact that the international arms embargo to prevent illicit arms transfers to Hezbollah, that the mechanism for that has not been finalized," he said. "And you have a situation in south Lebanon where the demand by the Security Council that there should be no armed Hezbollah fighters south of the Litani River has not been implemented."

Meanwhile, Israeli officials have confirmed their forces used phosphorous bombs during the 34-day conflict in Lebanon. Israeli officials say the bombs are not banned under international law, and that Israel complied with international regulations that say such weapons may only be used against military targets.

Human rights groups have called for a ban on phosphorous shells and bombs because they generate intense heat and cause horrific burns.

Human Rights groups have also criticized Israel for its widespread use of cluster bombs in the conflict. They have also condemned Hezbollah for firing cluster bombs at an Israeli village.

U.N. officials say there are still about 350,000 unexploded cluster bomblets in southern Lebanon - posing a great danger to people who live in the area.