Israel-Lebanon clash: Did Israeli soldiers step into Lebanese territory?
Yesterday's Israel-Lebanon clash, sparked when Israeli soldiers went to cut down a tree, highlights the confusion that can arise due to slight discrepancies between a 12-foot security fence and the actual border.
Yesterday's Israel-Lebanon clash, the deadliest incident in four years along the tense border, continued to reverberate Wednesday with Israel calling on the United States to cease its financial support for the Lebanese Army.Skip to next paragraph
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Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the militant Shiite Hezbollah, warned on Tuesday night that his organization would come to the aid of the Lebanese Army if it came under further attack by Israel.
“From now on, if the army is attacked in any area where the resistance has a presence or a say, the resistance will not stand idly by,” he said in a televised speech before an audience of supporters in southern Beirut.
The United Nations Security Council expressed its “deep concern” over the deadly clash and “called on all parties to practice utmost restraint” to prevent any further escalation.
One Israeli army officer, at least two Lebanese soldiers, and a Lebanese journalist were killed Tuesday in a clash on the border. The fighting, the most serious since the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, occurred when Israeli troops attempted to cut down a tree that lay north of the 12-foot high security fence, but a few yards south of the actual border.
The United Nations peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, confirmed that it had been informed about the planned tree-cutting operation by the Israeli military and that the Lebanese Army had been notified.
The Lebanese Army admits opening fire first, but says its soldiers fired warning shots only. Israeli troops returned fire and the shooting quickly escalated.
Why there's confusion about the border
It is not the first time that the discrepancy between the paths traced by the Israeli security fence and the border have raised tensions in the area.
The Israeli fence does not always follow the border but sometimes dips by as much as 100 yards into Israeli territory, conforming to the rugged topography of the frontier region. Israeli troops occasionally operate north of the fence but short of the border to clear vegetation or to conduct surveillance missions. The problem arises when Lebanese see Israeli troops crossing the fence and assume they have entered Lebanese territory.
Since September 2007, UNIFIL, in coordination with the Lebanese and Israeli governments, has been demarcating the “Blue Line,” the UN term for the path corresponding to the border, with blue-painted barrels. But only 24 miles of the 70 mile frontier have been marked so far, according to UNIFIL.