A Lebanese soldier holding his rifle as Israeli troops patrol the border fence in the southern Leban
A Lebanese soldier holding his rifle as Israeli troops patrol the border fence in the southern Lebanon village of Adeisa. Photo by AP
Text size
Reuters / Ali Hashisho
Exchange of fire on the border between Israel and Lebanon - August 3, 2010 Photo by Reuters / Ali Hashisho

The Lebanese Army was first to open fire in the recent fatal border clash with Israel Defense Forces soldiers, a Lebanese source told the Lebanese newspaper A-Nahar on Wednesday.

An IDF reserve battalion commander was killed on Tuesday as Lebanese and Israeli troops exchanged fire on the border in the most serious clashes since a fierce war four years ago, with Lebanon saying at least three of its soldiers and a journalist were killed in the resulting shelling.

According to the IDF, fighting began after Israeli troops began what Israel said was a scheduled vegetation clearing activity on Israel's side of the international borderline. In response to the activity, which Israel claimed Lebanon was notified of, Lebanese snipers opened deliberate fire at the IDF observation post several hundred meters into Israel, killing Lt. Col. Dov Harari and wounding company commander Ezra Lakia.

Speaking with A-Nahar Wednesday, a Lebanese military spokesman admitted to IDF claims that the Lebanese fired first, adding however that it was their right "to defend Lebanon's sovereignty."

On Tuesday, Israel submitted an official letter of complaint to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon over the clash on the Lebanese border, saying the attacks by the Lebanon army "threaten stability, peace, and security in our region."

"In response to this grave incident that constitutes a blatant violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701, Israel exercised its right of self-defense, responding with the appropriate measures on LAF positions in the area," the letter submitted by Israel's UN envoy Daniel Carmon.

The letter stated that Israel held "the Government of Lebanon responsible for these attacks and all actions conducted from Lebanese territory," adding that Israel called "upon the international community to exert its influence and to take the necessary measures with the Lebanese authorities to ensure that such provocative violations will not be repeated."

"In order to fully address this matter, I wish to inform you that this identical letter has been sent to H.E. Mr. Vitaly I. Churkin, President of the United Nations Security Council, to be circulated as an official document of the Security Council," the letter added.

Earlier Wednesday, a chief UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) official said IDF soldiers did not cross the border with Lebanon before the deadly clash between Israeli and Lebanese forces, adding that the UN force had been dealing with complaints of Lebanese provocations on a daily basis.

The IDF stressed following the fatal exchange that its vegetation clearing works near the border had not only taken place within Israeli territory, but on Israel's side of the fence.

Milos Strugar, UNIFIL's senior political adviser said that the IDF had "informed UNIFIL that it was going to conduct maintenance works" on the border, adding that while the Israeli unit had been "on the northern side of the border fence," it was nonetheless "south of the international borderline."

However, the UNIFIL official added that the information he had was "preliminary," adding that he will look into the evidence "more thoroughly" later in the day.
"The situation became tense right away, with the Lebanon army also being there," Strugar said, adding that UNIFIL forces had tried "to calm the situation and allow the IDF to work."

Asserting the IDF's claim that it had informed the Lebanese side of the planned border works, Strugar said that UNIFIL had received a message from the IDF "regarding these works, and we had passed that on to the Lebanese army."

"We deal with complaints on provocations of Lebanese soldiers against IDF units on a daily basis," Strugar told Army Radio, adding incidents occur "almost every day, there's a lot of tension round the border, but what happened is the worst incident since 2006."

Also Wednesday, a UNIFIL spokesman said that the organization had established that "the trees being cut by the Israeli army are located south of the Blue Line on the Israeli side."

While both Israel and Lebanon had voiced reservations regarding the location of the international border, or the Blue Line, the UNIFIL statement asserted that "both Lebanon and Israel confirmed to the UN Secretary-General that, notwithstanding their reservations, identifying the Line was solely the responsibility of the United Nations and that they will respect the Line as identified."

"The UN position is that the Blue Line must be respected in its entirety by all parties," the statement by Deputy Spokesperson Andrea Tenent said.