At least three Lebanese soldiers are dead after clashes erupted along the Israeli-Lebanon border today, the Lebanese army said. Assaf Abou Rahhal, a journalist from the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, is also thought to be killed. In addition, the Israeli military announced that a 45-year-old battalion commander was killed and a captain critically wounded.
There are conflicting reports on what triggered the clashes. Lebanese reports allege the conflict began when an IDF unit attempted to uproot a tree on the Lebanese side of the border. Other reports claim the Israeli soldiers were attempting to plant cameras. But according to Israel, the IDF was performing maintenance work across the fence, but still within Israeli territory, since the fence does not always run along the border. The IDF also stressed that its work was coordinated with UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping force stationed in Southern Lebanon. In all reports, the Lebanese were first to open fire.
Lebanese soldiers and United Nations peacekeepers (in blue berets) look across the border with Israel after brief clashes erupted Tuesday.
Both sides have stated that they hold the other government accountable for the flare-up, warning that there will be further repercussions should violence continue. Both have also claimed the other’s actions violate UN Security Resolution 1701, which ended hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006 by calling on Israel to withdraw from Lebanon and for Beirut to disarm Hezbollah. The latter has yet to happen.
While the clashes appear to be a misunderstanding between the two neighbors rather than a deliberate test of wills, they underscore the frailty of UN Resolution 1701. Indeed, although Israeli military officials acknowledge that relative quiet has characterized Israel’s border with Lebanon since 2006, they also note that Hezbollah has made a concerted effort to build its weapons arsenal in preparation for a future clash with Israel, which Beirut and UNIFIL have done little to prevent.