Fri, Oct 27, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Germany probing Israeli fighter jet incident

AP , BERLIN

Germany's Defense Ministry is investigating an incident involving two Israeli fighter jets and a German warship patrolling the Lebanese coast as part of a peacekeeping force.

A ministry spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday that the planes -- two F-16s -- apparently fired two shots in the air and released flares, which can be used as a defense measure against heat-seeking missiles. The Israelis denied shots were fired.

The German spokesman did not identify the vessel or say what day the incident occurred.

The Israeli Defense Ministry said in a statement that Defense Minister Amir Peretz had spoken by telephone on Wednesday evening to German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung concerning the reports.

"The defense minister made it clear that Israel did not fire at any German aircraft or ship," the statement said. "The defense minister told his German colleague that Israel has no intention of carrying out any offensive acts against German forces."

The Israeli military told reporters that an Israeli aircraft had approached a German vessel on Tuesday morning when a helicopter took off from its deck without informing Israeli authorities in advance, but that no shots were fired.

Israel's ministry statement said Peretz told Jung there was a need for improved coordination, both directly between Israel and Germany and through the UN International Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

A German naval task force led by the frigate Mecklenburg Western Pomerania is off Lebanon's coast seeking to prevent weapons smuggling as part of the expanded UNIFIL peacekeeping force.

Germany joined the peacekeeping force but did not send ground troops, partly because of worries that they might come in conflict with Israeli troops -- a sensitive issue given World War II.

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