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.
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Similar incident in 2007
Tuesday’s incident echoed an earlier clash in February 2007 when Lebanese troops opened fire on an Israeli army bulldozer that was clearing suspected roadside bombs between the security fence and the border near the Israeli settlement of Avivim. The Israelis returned fire but there were no casualties on that occasion.Skip to next paragraph
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Israeli troops returned on Wednesday to the scene of the clash to continue clearing undergrowth north of the security fence, but there was no further shooting.
“If the Israelis finish their work today without any further incident, then this is an isolated occurrence and things should return to normal,” a UNIFIL officer said on condition of anonymity.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak attempted to play down Tuesday’s fighting, describing it as a local incident and not orchestrated by the Lebanese government nor Hezbollah.
“I hope there will be no escalation; that we will have a calm summer and that things will return to normal,” he said.
US military aid to Lebanon: $525 million since 2006
However, Israel could use the clash to lobby the US to scale down its military aid program for the Lebanese Army, which presently stands at more than $525 million since 2006.
Still, the US has been sensitive to Israeli security concerns. Most of the equipment dispatched to the Lebanese Army consists of transport vehicles, communications, and ammunition. The US so far has declined to include arms that could pose a threat to Israel such as antiaircraft systems and antitank missiles.
The US hopes that bolstering the capabilities of the Lebanese Army will undermine Hezbollah’s claim that its formidable military wing is the best means of defending Lebanon from possible Israeli aggression.
Hezbollah stayed out of the fighting on Tuesday. Sheikh Nasrallah said that he was in direct contact with Lebanese Army command and top officials.
“We told our militants to hold back, not to do anything,” Nasrallah said.
But he added that Hezbollah would respond to future attacks on the Lebanese Army.
“The Israeli hand that targets the Lebanese Army will be cut off,” he said.
Analysts say that although Hezbollah has said it is ready for war, and is stronger than in 2006, it is not looking for a renewed confrontation with Israel.
- Israel-Lebanon clash: Could it spark another war?
- Civilian clashes with UN soldiers rise in Lebanon's Hezbollah heartland
- Hezbollah says it's ready for fresh war with Israel – and stronger now