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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 5th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

U.N. Supports Israeli Account of Border Clash.

Mohammed Zaatari/Associated Press

United Nations peacekeepers, right, on their armored vehicle, monitored the area as an Israeli mechanical grabber operated near the border area with Lebanon, in the southern village of Adaisseh, on Wednesday.

By ISABEL KERSHNER
Published: August 4, 2010

JERUSALEM — The United Nations peacekeeping force in South Lebanon, Unifil, said on Wednesday it had concluded that Israeli forces were cutting trees that lay within their own territory before a lethal exchange of fire with Lebanese Army troops on Tuesday, largely vindicating Israel’s account of how the fighting started.

Ali Hashisho/Reuters

United Nations peacekeepers patrolled near a poster of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah near Adaisseh in southern Lebanon on Wednesday.

An Israeli commander, two Lebanese soldiers and a Lebanese journalist were killed in the border skirmish, the worst clash in the area in four years. But the border region was calm on Wednesday as Israel’s leaders appeared to try to cool the atmosphere. Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, told Israel Radio that the Israeli response to what he called a “provocation” by the Lebanese Army had been “correct” and “measured,” and said there was a need to ensure that a local incident did not turn into a crisis.

Israeli citizens and vacationers in northern Israel were told to carry on as normal, and that there was no need for special precautions. Israeli forces completed their task of pruning brush in the area of the confrontation without incident, according to an Israeli military spokeswoman.

Lebanon had said that the confrontation started after Israeli soldiers crossed into Lebanese territory to cut down a tree. Israel said its forces were clearing brush as part of routine maintenance work in a gap between the so-called Blue Line, the internationally recognized border, and its security fence. Israel said it had coordinated its actions in advance with Unifil.

In a statement on Wednesday, Unifil said its investigators were still on the ground and that inquiries were continuing.

“Unifil established, however, that the trees being cut by the Israeli Army are located south of the Blue Line on the Israeli side,” it said.

Unifil added that in the area in question, the Lebanese government had “some reservations concerning the Blue Line,” which was demarcated by the United Nations when Israel withdrew its forces from Lebanon in 2000, “as did the Israeli government at some other locations.”

But both sides committed themselves to respecting the line as identified, Unifil added, saying the United Nations believed “that the Blue Line must be respected in its entirety by all parties.”

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli government, said the announcement “clearly corroborates the Israeli version — that our routine activity was conducted in its entirety south of the frontier, and that the Lebanese Army opened fire without provocation and without any justification whatsoever.”

Lebanon acknowledged on Wednesday that the trees were south of the Blue Line, but maintained that they were in its territory. Lebanon’s information minister, Tarek Mitri, told reporters that his country disputed the demarcation of the Blue Line in that area.

Each side had blamed the other in the hours after the gunfire, trading accusations of violating the United Nations Security Council resolution that underpins the four-year-old cease-fire.

A senior American official in Washington said that the Lebanese military appeared to have been responsible for starting the gunfire.

Israeli military officials insisted that the attack on their forces was premeditated. They pointed to internal tensions in Lebanon and what they said was the growing influence of Hezbollah, the Shiite, Iranian-backed militia, on certain elements within the Lebanese Army.

But Mr. Barak, the Israeli defense minister, said Wednesday that the incident had not been planned by the Lebanese General Staff and that Hezbollah was not a partner to it.

Isabel Kershner reported from Jerusalem, and Nada Bakri from Beirut, Lebanon. Neil MacFarquhar contributed reporting from the United Nations.

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(The sad thing is that 4 people lost their lives in that Lebanese over reaction, and the Israeli truth is underlined once more that on the Israeli side it is usually the commander who gets hit – this because he knows he is in the right and tries to calm the situation though not being helped from the other side. That is an old story corroborated just one more time.}

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THE UPDATE:

UN DAILY NEWS from the
UNITED NATIONS NEWS SERVICE

5 August, 2010

UNESCO CHIEF DEPLORES KILLING OF LEBANESE JOURNALIST

The head of the United Nations agency tasked with upholding press freedom today expressed deep concern over the death of Lebanese journalist Assaf Abu Rahal, who was killed during an exchange of gunfire along Lebanon’s border with Israel that also claimed the lives of three other people.

Mr. Rahal worked for the Al-Akhbar newspaper published in Beirut, the Lebanese capital. His colleague Ali Shoaib was wounded in the deadly skirmish between Lebanese and Israeli forces on Tuesday across the so-called Blue Line separating the two countries.

“I am deeply concerned about the circumstances in which Assaf Abu Rahal was killed and his colleague Ali Shoaib injured,” Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said in a statement.

“I call on all parties involved to make every effort to shed light on the causes of this tragic incident, and to make sure it does not happen again by showing more restraint.

“I would further underline that freedom of expression, a fundamental human right, implies the possibility of exercising this right in safety. Armed forces are obligated to respect it,” she added.

According to the non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders, the two journalists were at a Lebanese army roadblock during Tuesday’s incident.

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