By Jack Khoury and Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz Correspondents, and The Associated Press
Lebanese army units fired in the direction of Israel Air Force planes who entered the country's airspace on Thursday, the London-based Arab language daily newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat is reporting in Friday editions.
The IAF sorties prompted the Lebanese military to raise its alert level. The army also conducted ground patrols along the Lebanese border with Israel and appealed to UNIFIL to demand a cessation to the flights.
The Lebanese army alleges that six Israeli combat jets were seen in the skies above southern Lebanon on Thursday between the 9:30 and 11:00 in the morning.
The Israel Defense Forces declined to respond to the charges, saying it does not provide details of IAF operations.
The leader of the militant Hezbollah group said Thursday that his organization has grown stronger as Israel has weakened.
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's comments came a day after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a new report that said Israel claims that Hezbollah has rearmed with new long-range rockets capable of hitting Tel Aviv.
"The resistance today is stronger than before and Israel is weaker," Nasrallah said during the opening of an agricultural fair in Beirut's southern suburb of Rweis organized by Hezbollah's construction arm, Jihad al-Bina. Nasrallah was not present but spoke to hundreds of supporters using a giant screen.
"We don't want war with anyone, but at the same time, we will not allow anyone to attack our villages, people and country," Nasrallah said. Hezbollah's Al-Manar television aired excerpts of his speech during the station's evening broadcast.
His comments came ahead of a military exercise Israel has scheduled this week in the north near the Lebanese border. The exercise is slated to be the largest Israeli military maneuver since the monthlong war between Israel and Hezbollah last year.
On Wednesday, the U.N. secretary-general's report said Israel claims Hezbollah has tripled its shore-to-sea C-802 missiles and has established an air defense unit armed with ground-to-air missiles.
"Israel has stated that the nature and number of weapons in Hezbollah's control constitutes a strategic threat to its security and the safety of its citizens," Ban said.
Ban said he believed the reports of Hezbollah's rearming are a cause of great concern for the stability of Lebanon.
Nasrallah did not comment on Ban's report or provide details on how Hezbollah has strengthened. Last year after the war ended, he said his group had been rearming since Israel withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000 and possessed more than 33,000 rockets.
Nasrallah warned that no one will be allowed "to stain Lebanon's lands, which will not be a land for Israeli occupation or American military bases." He was referring to a report by Lebanon's daily As-Safir newspaper last month that said Washington was proposing a treaty with Lebanon that would make it a strategic partner and lead to the creation of American bases in the country.
The Western-backed Lebanese government and the U.S. embassy denied the report