To the surprise of many Israelis, the United Nations on Wednesday confirmed that Israeli soldiers were unjustly attacked by Lebanese Army forces during routine maintenance along the border a day earlier.
Location of Tuesday's incident marked in red, clearly on the Israeli side of the border. (IDF Spokesperson)
A member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) released a statement noting that the Israeli army had notified the world body of its intention to conduct maintenance work very close to the Blue Line, which is the internationally-recognized border.
Israel regularly cuts down large trees in the area between the Israeli security fence and the Blue Line (which is still sovereign Israeli territory) in order to deny Lebanese terrorist forces cover for attacks on Israeli border towns.
"I can confirm that we received notification from the IDF about the work and we passed the information on to the Lebanese Army," a Hungarian diplomat working with UNIFIL stated.
But the Lebanese used the information to set up an ambush. As the Israelis began their work, again, on Israel's side of the UN-demarcated border, Lebanese army snipers opened fire, killing the Israeli unit's commander and critically wounding one of his deputies. Israeli tanks returned fire, and were attacked by Lebanese anti-tank missiles. Israeli artillery then pounded the area.
Israeli army commanders noted that Arab journalists were already present on the Lebanese side of the border, proving that the clash was a planned ambush.
The Lebanese army later issued a statement via France's AFP news agency confirming that it had fired first, but insisting that the Israeli troops were on Lebanese soil. UNIFIL officials said that is not true, and that the Israelis did not cross the border.
Of course, the Lebanese government and its Hizballah and Iranian puppet masters have never accepted the UN-marked Blue Line as the official border, and claim that Israel continues to occupy parts of southern Lebanon.
Despite Lebanon's intransigence and misconduct in Tuesday's clash, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon tried to ride the fence when responding to the incident. Ban called on both Lebanon and Israel to exercise extreme restraint, and mourned the loss of life on both sides.
Observers said that had Israel been at fault, Ban and the UN would have issued condemnations and likely convened the UN Security Council in order to draft and adopt a harsh resolution calling for an investigation into Israel's behavior.
Arab leaders played off the soft UN reaction to the Lebanese provocation by further stoking the flames of conflict.
Syrian President Bashar Assad declared that "Israel is constantly working to destabilize security in Lebanon and the region," and vowed to back up Lebanon in any future clash with the Israelis.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman would "stand up - whatever the cost" to what he called Israel's violation of Lebanese sovereignty.
Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said his terrorist militia had closely monitored the clash and was ready to jump in at any moment to back up the Lebanese army. Israeli officials said the continued military presence of Hizballah is a violation of the UN Security Council resolution that ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006. But instead of enforce that resolution, UNIFIL has allowed Hizballah influence to grow, even over the Lebanese army. The Israelis believe Tuesday's clash was spurred on by Hizballah.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that any future attacks by the Lebanese army or Hizballah would result in a severe Israeli response.
"I see the Lebanese government as directly responsible for this violent provocation against Israel," Netanyahu said in a televised address to the nation. "Israel has responded forcefully and will do so in the future as well."
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