IDF Exchanges Fire With Lebanon Across Border

Israeli soldiers exchanged gunfire with Lebanese counterparts Monday morning. No injuries were suffered by either side in the first outbreak of fighting in Israels northern border in the past year.

The Israel Defense Forces and the Lebanese Army exchanged fire across the northern border Monday, a rare occurrence. There were no casualties in the incident, which occurred when Lebanese soldiers fired on an IDF patrol on the Israeli side of the border.

This was the first time in a year Lebanese troops fired at Israeli soldiers; in August 2010 Lt. Col. Dov Harari, a commander of a reservist battalion, was killed by Lebanese soldiers.

Also on Monday, the IDF killed two Palestinians while soldiers were looking for suspects in the Qalandiyah refugee camp near Jerusalem.

The exchanges of fire on the Lebanese border occurred just after 7 A.M. Israeli paratroopers were on a routine operation with a support force of two tanks between the border fence and the Lebanese border.

According to initial reports from Lebanon, one Lebanese soldier was killed, but the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon concluded that there had been no casualties on either side.

UNIFIL said the initial findings suggest that the IDF did not cross the border, and that there had been no cause for the shooting.

Because of terrain conditions, the fence along the northern border is in many spots hundreds of meters south of the actual border. Until the Second Lebanon War, the IDF generally avoided entering these enclaves, which Hezbollah used as observation positions or to set up ambushes.

Since the end of the war, the IDF regularly patrols outside the border fence; this sometimes causes friction with the Lebanese Army, which is positioned along the border.

According to officers in Northern Command, clashes are usually restricted to shouting and the pointing of weapons, not shooting.

Sources in Northern Command said yesterday that as far as they were concerned, this was an "unusual incident" that should not lead to an escalation. "It can be contained," one source said.

In the other incident early yesterday morning, two Palestinian civilians were killed during an IDF operation at the Qalandiyah refugee camp north of Jerusalem. The force, from the Kfir Brigade, was on a mission to arrest suspects.

The force entered the camp after midnight to arrest three suspects. During the operation a riot broke out in the camp, with hundreds of youths throwing bottles and cinder blocks at the troops. The soldiers completed the arrest, firing tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets as they left the camp. Another force entered the areacamp to help the soldiers withdraw.

The soldiers fired live rounds, killing two civilians and wounding a third.

The army is investigating the incident and whether live fire was necessary. The Military Police are also expected to launch an investigation following a new policy by Military Advocate General Avichai Mendelblit whenever the IDF kills a Palestinian civilian.