UN vindicates Israel over deadly exchange of fire with Lebanese troops

The peacekeeping force of the United Nations in southern Lebanon (UNIFIL) has confirmed that Israeli forces were pruning trees located on Israeli territory before an exchange of fire with Lebanese troops. An UNIFIL statement largely vindicated Israel’s account of how the fighting, in which one Israel and two Lebanese soldiers as well as a Lebanese journalist died, began. “The UN established that the trees being cut by the Israeli army are located south of the Blue Line on the Israeli side,’’ it said, referring the internationally recognized border demarcated by the UN in 2000 when Israel withdrew its forces from Lebanon. But both sides committed themselves to respecting the line as identified, the UN peacekeeping force added.

On Wednesday, UNFIL convened a ‘tripartite’ meeting on the Israeli-Lebanese border, in which UN officials as well as IDF and Lebanese army officers took part. "Israel and Lebanon have agreed to respect the UN's resolutions," UNIFIL’s commander Alberto Asarta Cuevas said Wednesday night following the meeting at the Nakoura crossing. In Washington, US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the UN finding was conclusive. "The firing by Lebanese armed forces was totally unjustified and unwarranted," he said. Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, told ‘Israel Radio’ that the IDF response to what he termed a “provocation” by the Lebanese army had been correct and measured. However, Barak said there was a need to ensure that the incident did not turn into a new conflict.

Meanwhile, IDF Lt.-Col. (res) Dov Harari, 45, who was killed in the incident, was buried in his hometown Netanya (picture). He is survived by his wife and four children.

 

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