Israeli, Lebanese generals meet after border flare-up

Thursday, August 05, 2010 |  Israel Today Staff

The commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) succeeded in bringing Israeli and Lebanese generals together for an emergency meeting on Wednesday, a day after the Israeli and Lebanese armies engaged in a brief, but deadly clash along their shared border.

Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas said following the meeting that both sides had "agreed to respect the UN's resolutions" regarding the Blue Line that the UN drew in 2000 as the new ceasefire borderline.

During the meeting, Cuevas said that UNIFIL was conducting an official inquiry into the clash that left one Israeli soldier and two Lebanese soldiers dead after Lebanese troops opened fire on an Israeli army team that was pruning a tree along the border.

UNIFIL had earlier released a statement confirming that both the tree and the Israeli soldiers were on the Israeli side of the Blue Line when the Lebanese opened fire.

"UNIFIL established ... that the trees being cut by the Israeli army are located south of the Blue Line on the Israeli side," UNIFIL military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Naresh Bhatt read from the statement.

Israel's representative at the meeting, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Heiman stressed that Israel's operation in the area had been perfectly legitimate, and that the Lebanese attack was unprovoked. Heiman said the tree in question needed to be pruned as its branches were setting off sensors on Israel's security fence.

In Washington, US State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley agreed with the Israelis, calling the Lebanese attack "totally unjustified and unwarranted."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not fully pleased with the international reaction to the incident, noting that had Israel in fact been at fault, there would have been harsh condemnations and calls for a damning international inquiry.

"For years many in the international community have remained silent when rockets have been fired at Israeli civilians, and when unprovoked attacks have been launched against our soldiers," Netanyahu said in a statement released to the press. "Expressions of outrage have largely been reserved for Israel's response to those attacks... Israel expects the international community to condemn such attacks in the strongest possible terms."

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