A senior Israeli officer was killed and another critically wounded by sniper fire from Lebanese gunman/gunmen near the Israel/Lebanon border. The unprovoked attack occurred while Israeli troops were clearing vegetation near the border. A UNIFIL spokesman reported on the event here. As has occurred previously, Israel previously notified UNIFIL who passed on the information to the Lebanese army, that the clearing of vegetation was to take place.
Initial information suggests that during a request to delay the operation for several hours, a Lebanese ambush was set up. The Israelis retaliated, however the serious Israeli casualties had occurred. The initial Lebanese political spin was to suggest that Israeli troops had crossed the border but this seems to be not the case – with the troops remaining south of the border line although beyond a fence that is recognised to not stick closely to the border. Not surprisingly, the news feed used by the Sydney Morning Herald has been more murky in its description also spinning the story towards the Lebanese perspective… as have other press sources
The northern border is already a tense one with Israeli and Lebanese troops in close proximity, during a hot summer. Hezbollah is rearmed and looking to divert attention from an accusation that it was involved in the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister, however at this stage it remains unclear who was directly responsible – whether it was a rogue individual action or an organised one.
As stated here, UNIFIL issued a statement Wednesday saying that the trees being cut down by the IDF Tuesday which apparently triggered the cross border skirmish that left one IDF officer, three Lebanese troops and a Lebanese journalist dead were located on the Israeli side of the international border. “Following the exchange of fire between the Lebanese army and the Israeli army across the Blue Line in El Adeisse yesterday, the UNIFIL investigators were on the ground and commenced investigations,” the statement said. “The investigations are still ongoing and the findings will be intimated on conclusion of the investigations. UNIFIL established, however, that the trees being cut by the Israeli army are located south of the Blue Line on the Israeli side.”
The IDF’s activities Tuesday in the area of the attack near Kibbutz Misgav Am, an area Jerusalem stressed was between Israel’s border fence and the international border, were coordinated with UNIFIL in advance. Israeli officials said that there were three areas on the border where for topographical reasons the fence could not be built on the border, but rather only west or south of it, but all in Israel’s territory.
A UNIFIL official in southern Lebanon confirmed Wednesday that the IDF informed the organisation of its intention to conduct routine maintenance work Tuesday in the area between Israel’s border fence and the international border.
“I can confirm that we received notification from the IDF about the work and we passed the information on to the Lebanese Army,” said the Hungarian diplomat who is part of the UNIFIL force in southern Lebanon.
The UN Security Council held a special discussion on Tuesday in response to Israel‘s complaint that the Lebanese Army’s actions were a violation of UNSC Resolution 1701, which put an end to the Second Lebanon War in 2006.UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he was worried about the incident and sorry about the loss of life on both sides. He called on both Lebanon and Israel
This final remark suggests that all three groups are looking to diffuse the tension.