Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Today: Attack on Lebanese Border
There is a security fence along the Israel/Lebanese border. Exactly how the international border runs is not plainly known, as it runs along both sides of the fence in different places. Evidently, according to Lebanon, some IDF soldiers wanted to cut a tree down inside the fence and were told not to by the Lebanese soldiers. According to Israeli reports, the IDF was just doing maintenance work along the fence. Fighting ensued with 3 Lebanese soldiers and a Lebanese journalist being killed. An Israeli soldier, Lt. Col Dov Harari age 45, was killed. Capt. Ezra Lakia of the IDF was critically wounded.
The Israeli residents nearby had heard explosions and it was reported that a Katusha rocket exploded there in the Upper Galilee, but later was not found.
There are12,000 U.N. Peacekeeping forces there, UNIFIL. All they did was to issue a statement telling both sides to stop. Israel does its own patrolling of the border for protection.
This became very serious, the most that has happened in the vicinity since 2006. Israel complained saying they are following the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.
8/4/2010 Update from Jewish Federation:-Notice: Differing from newspaper reporting-

Lebanese soldiers opened fire across the border at Israeli troops around midday yesterday. A senior IDF officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dov Harari, 45, was killed in the skirmish, as were three Lebanese soldiers and one Lebanese journalist. There were also a number of injuries on both sides.

The internationally accepted border between Israel and Lebanon is known as the "blue line." Israel's border fence is a few yards back from that line. Yesterday, Israeli troops were conducting routine work on the area between the fence and the blue line. They do so by using a "cherry picker" vehicle that stands on one side of the fence and leans over the fence in to the second side. (A photo can be seen here.) All work was carried out well before the blue line -- in other words, 100% on Israel's side of the border. An aerial photo of the area, showing the location of the incident, can be seen here. As is customary when such work is carried out, Israel first notified the local UNIFIL commander. In an interview on Wednesday morning (Aug. 4) with Israeli Army Radio, Hungarian diplomat Milos Strugar, who is serving as the political advisor to the UNIFIL commander, explained that the work carried out by the IDF along the border with Lebanon yesterday took place within Israeli territory and was coordinated ahead of time with the Lebanese army. “I can confirm that the IDF had coordinated the pruning work along the border with the Lebanese Army through UNIFIL. The IDF informed UNIFIL that it would be pruning a tree on the northern side of the border fence, but south of the international border line.” Strugar added that the situation immediately intensified, as the Lebanese Army was also in the area. “Our people who were there tried to pacify the situation and to enable the IDF’s work.”
“In the morning, the IDF informed us of their work and we passed that on to the Lebanese Army. Our investigation into this subject is not completed, and I am awaiting the final report,” Strugar added. Background on UN Security Council Resolution 1701 that governs these matters can be seen here. Speculation still abounds that this incident was an intentional Lebanese attack aimed at deflecting Lebanese public attention from a UN report on the assassination of former President Rafik Hariri, which was threatening to cause major civilian unrest in the country in the coming days. The presence of journalists among the Lebanese troops strengthens this claim. According to the IDF, journalists and photographers were briefed in advance of the intention to ambush IDF troops and were therefore present at the site of the clash between Israeli and Lebanese forces. The killed correspondent, Assaf Abu Rahal, worked for Hezbollah-affiliated Beirut daily al-Akhbar.
IDF GOC of the Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot called the attack an "initiated and provocative action by the Lebanese army, without any provocation from our territory. Full responsibility lies on the Lebanese army." Raw video footage by Reuters can be seen here.

Lt.- Col. (res.) Dov Harari, 45, who was killed in the clash, was laid to rest in his home town of Netanya today. It was to have been the last miluim (reserve stint) after 27 years of service for Harari, and the reserve battalion commander was expecting to be sent home soon to spend the rest of the summer vacation with his wife and four children. Harari worked in the family business, selling building material. According to family and friends, though, there was nothing he loved more than the army, and he never shied away from a reserve call-up. Last night, the White House conveyed U.S. President Barack Obama's personal condolences to his family, an Israeli Defense Ministry representative delivered President Obama's condolences to the Harari family this morning.

An immediate letter of complaint was sent by Israel to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. The text of the letter can be seen here.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak also issued strong statements on the issue. Both can be seen here
There have been no further incidents on or near the border since yesterday's conflict.
The question remains as to how the Lebanese journalists and photographers knew in advance of the Israeli soldiers being in the area and what they were there to do. The UN and Lebanon had previously been notified of their work they were coming to do and it was okayed. Now it's known that the journalists had connections to Hezbollah, a terror group. (See Israel project news)
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