Israeli and Lebanese Armies Trade Fire; at least 4 Dead

There is one sad thing and there are several surprising things about the border clash on Tuesday between Israel and Lebanon.

The sad thing is that the firefight broke out over the removal of a tree. The Israeli army says it was their tree, which they wanted to remove to get a better view of Lebanon. The Lebanese army says it was their tree and that the Israeli troops crossed the border to chop down the woody miscreant. The Israelis say that they warned the Lebanese army of what they were doing by megaphone. The Lebanese say that the Israelis repeatedly violate Lebanese sovereignty, indeed have done so thousands of times since the 2006 war.

Couldn’t they, like, have called in the UNIFIL United Nations peacekeepers to cut down the trees? That is what UNIFIL is there for. Some trees were worth the lives of Lebanese troops and a journalist and that of an Israeli officer?

One surprising thing is that the Lebanese army showed such spunk in the face of the perceived Israeli affront. They know very well that they are vastly outgunned, and of course the Israeli military hit them with fire from helicopter gunships and artillery pieces. What made them so bold, that they shot and killed an Israeli officer over the tree removal?

Another surprise is that the secretary general of the Hizbullah party and militia, Hasan Nasrullah, called on his people to show restraint. Even so, he threatened to intervene if there was another Israeli provocation.

Yet another surprise is that the Lebanese army contacted the Israeli army behind the scenes in an attempt to forestall any spiraling out of control of the situation. (But the Telegraph article is incorrect when it says that the Israeli army did not target any Lebanese military and government targets in 2006; it did, a few).

My own guess is that this border incident will remain a border incident, in part because President Obama doesn’t want another Israel-Lebanon war (unlike his predecessors, who never met a war they didn’t like).

Aljazeera English has video:

Aljazeera English also reviews Israeli-Lebanese border violence in recent decades:

46 Responses

  1. COLE: “President Obama doesn’t want another Israel-Lebanon war (unlike his predecessors, who never met a war they didn’t like).”

    I only want to clarify that Obama in fact SUPPORTED Israel’s war against Lebanon (exactly like his predecessors).

    Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) delivered the following remarks on Israel, Iran, Iraq and the Middle East to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Forum held on March 2, 2007 in Chicago, Illinois.

    “Israel Must Freely Defend Itself When Attacked
    And when Israel is attacked, we must stand up for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself.
    Last summer, Hezbollah attacked Israel. By using Lebanon as an outpost for terrorism, and innocent people as shields, Hezbollah has also engulfed that entire nation in violence and conflict, and threatened the fledgling movement for democracy there.
    That’s why we have to press for enforcement of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which demands the cessation of arms shipments to Hezbollah, a resolution which Syria and Iran continue to disregard. Their support and shipment of weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas, which threatens the peace and security in the region, must end. ”

    link to usliberals.about.com

    Barack Obama on the 2006 conflict in Lebanon
    link to youtube.com

  2. A Time Magazine article blames the whole thing on Hizballah “infiltrators” in the Lebanese Army, claiming that the initial attack involved snipers who deliberately shot two Israeli officers.

    It also claims that Hizballah started the 2006 war by “attacking” Israel soldiers on the border, an apparent reference to the capture of a couple Israeli soldiers as part of an effort to set up an exchange of them for hundreds of Lebanese prisoners languishing in Israel prisons, while ignoring Israel’s kidnapping of Palestinian personnel a short while before. Since Hizballah and Israel are technically still at war, the Hizballah operation was no surprise, particularly as Israel had warned its troops earlier of the danger of capture on the border.

    The Time article also claims that Israel notified the Lebanese Army in advance of the tree clearing operation. There appears to be no independent verification of that claim, at least none are presented in Time.

    All of these claims frankly are suspicious to me. The Time article basically recites Israel’s claims and nothing more. We KNOW from recent reports that Israel has been running simulations on the logistics of moving Israel troops into southern Lebanon. We KNOW Israel has been ratcheting up the rhetoric on Hizballah for months now. We also KNOW that Israel planned the 2006 attack on Lebanon months before the border incident initiated it.

    Therefore I think it is safe to say that the real deal behind this incident is not yet known. And whether it presages more incidents to come, with an eye to justifying a new Israeli on Hizballah, is as yet not certain, but highly possible.

    • First , Obama said IF ISRAEL WAS ATTACKED…It is highly unlikely that Israeli soldiers were attacked when they were on the wrong side of the fence they built! Second, this is reminesecent of the Flotilla -0Israelis invading and when resisted they murder the humanitarians…Israeli actions of the past few years make Most reasonable people doubt the facts of their reporting or innocence!

      Poking the Bear once again. They want to start something to divert attention away from the atrocities in Gaza and the West Bank!
      Think the logic of Steven Hack above is within reason!

      • The Israelis were on the right side of the border. In fact, the other side of the fence is Israel too, as the fence was build inside Israel, on not exactly on the blue line.

    • And your point? Simulations are run by every army in the world. See my below comment regarding this morning’s reporting by A-Nahar. You can weave all the conspiracies you wish, but two things seem clear: This is less a case of Israel attempting to trigger an incident/fake casus beli, as it is a case of a lone Lebanese gunman (or two) losing their cool and exceeding their orders.

      • A lone lebanese gunman (or two) loosing their cool would not prompt an immediate Israeli show of military might with air strikes and bombs if that is not their intention to begin with. Unless all these Israeli fighter jet pilots and their commanders lost their cool too.

        • Why not? They would respond the way they have been trained to …..soldiers think with weapons.

  3. My guess is that the Lebanese army feels confident that it can expect Hizbullah to back them up if the Israelis want to make too much of it. Relations have been closer since Michel Suleiman, now Lebanese President, became the army chief. When Hizbullah chased Sa’ad Hariri’s guys off the streets of West Beirut back when, they made a point of giving whatever they captured to the Lebanese army. Such deference and respect is appreciated anywhere.

  4. As Robert Fisk reports in today’s Independent, Israel’s refusal to agree where its borders actually lie, doesn’t help.

  5. Does anyone know how many trees is Israel panning on cutting to get a better view of Lebanon? There are plenty of them in south Lebanon and they are absoluty gorgeous. Can’t they use a ladder instead?

    • Oh, I know, I know, they are going to cut the trees until they reach a height high enough to view Lebanon from, like the Golan heights in Syria, you see.
      Wait! There are no such heights in south Lebanon.

    • To uproot a tree for warfare is the first obscenity.

  6. This is a sad story all around. I was this area (the lebanese side) last year. Such a beatiful area, with lots non batants. If your fimilar with with this area, the towns are so close and the boarder is unmanned. And the UN troops are about 20-10 minutes away.

  7. Lebanese sources are now telling A-Nahar that they opened fire first (link to haaretz.com) i don’t find any “surprise” in their “spunk,” as Juan termed it. We need to wait for a fuller investigation but this may point to the “Hezbolla-ization” of the army. Very doubtful this was ordered by a senior commander as an unprovoked violation of border security by Lebanon would not serve Beirut’s interests. Or…it could be a lone nut job who decided to go on a rampage because of religious insanity.

    Either way, what impressed me is that neither Beirut nor Jerusalem want this thing to spiral out of control. Even Hezbollah, at this junction, seems interesting in keeping things cool.

    • An-Nahar is as reliable a source as Al-Arabia. Haarez is but a conduit for IOF prop, when the IOF interests are on stake.

      IOF violated Lebanon land, air and so on hundreds of times just for two last years. It is just all their times they were too much cowards to get close enough to be shot.

      IOF is a colonial army of religious fanatics – Jewish ones. They are war criminals. Now, they one more time got taste of their own medicine – but this time it was not even from Hizballah! I cannot help LOL remembering all Israel calls 2 years ago to ” let Lebanese army” in the South Lebanon instead of Hizballah. It seems they got what they have asked for :)

    • No, they are not just now telling they fired first. They said that from second one and on major television stations viewed all over the world. Yes, they fired IN THE AIR when the israeli did not listen to the voice of reason and stop with their bulldozers and clarified their intentions in a disputed area. No, they don’t have 911, and vuvuzelas don’t work as well. The UNIFIL made it clear that they can’t intervene in cases of aggressive behavior towards them. Beirut and Nasralla don’t want this to spiral should actually make it clearer for you. Jerusalem was just building its first block toward a possible future aggression, and air strikes and bombs are enough for that.

    • Yesterday’s Al Jazeera report stated the Lebanese had fired warning shots which were responded to by helicopter rocket attack upon the Lebanese Army (command) bunker vehicles killing three Lebanese soldiers and a journalist. Lebanese return fire killed the Lt.Col. and wounded other Israelis. This was basically repeated by Robert Fisk this morning at The Independent.

      link to english.aljazeera.net

      link to independent.co.uk

      Both BBC and The Guardian had similar reports on the day as well

      link to bbc.co.uk

      link to guardian.co.uk

      The four reports on the day give similar stories that support the story.

  8. There we have it. The UNFIL conducted it’s investigation as they promised yesterday and concluded that the tree was in Israel territory. That is not surprising, at least to me, since it was reported yesterday that Israel asked the UNIFIL permission and got it before cutting the tree. So the UNIFIL before given Israel permission to cut the tree dertermind either that the tree was in Israel territory, or that the tree was in a disputed area and got the two parties to agree on what happens in it. No, the second senario didn’t occur. That means that the UNIFIL already determined that the tree was in israel’s territory and gave them permission accordinally, otherwise they would have consultated the lebanese first. So why did the UNIFIL need an investigation on a matter they already determined? And what would have happen if they concluded that the tree was in fact in a disputed area but they did not consult the lebanese before already given the israelis permission? They would have been in big trouble. So someone in rhe UNIFIL messed up or got minipulated, not that that would have made much difference when it comes to israel provacative actions. By the way, israel wouldn’t have asked for permission if the tree was clearly in it’s territory? 
    So here goes poor Israel just trying to cut a tree to install a camera for it’s SECURITY and gets speaker warnings from the Lebanese to stop because they don’t know what the israelis are up to. But israel can’t stop. Their SECURTY camera cant wait. Then comes the warning shots in the air by the spunky lebanese. Israel then needed an air strike to continue cuting the tree and protects its security with a security camera in place on the tree. The sivilians killed are only collateral damage and Israel is sorry. The Lebanese soldiers had even more spunk and dared to answer the air strike with ground fire and killed an Israeli soldier. 
     So it might be tit for tat, end of story. But that is not what we learned from history, is it? I am affraid that with this, Israel got the ammunition it needs to build on, when it SEES fit, so it can protect it’s SECURITY on a larger scale in the near future.   
             

    • Correction: 
      Unifil asked Israel to delay cutting down the trees in order to “facilitate an agreement between the two parties,” le Roy the head of UN peacekeeping said. The Israeli army delayed the operation by several hours, but le Roy said the UN would have liked a longer delay.
      There, the UN can’t force Israel to wait few more hours before taking an action that will be viewed as aggressive and provacative by the Lebanese. And Mighty arrogant Israel is not willing to wait few more hours to cut those trees.

    • RE: “UNIFIL already determined that the tree was in israel’s territory and gave them permission accordinally, otherwise they would have consultated the lebanese first.” – Leila

      FROM BUSINESSWEEK – August 04, 2010, 4:48 PM EDT :
      Aug. 4 (Bloomberg) — A clash that left five people dead along the Israel-Lebanon border occurred because the two nations couldn’t agree on how to remove a tree that was on Israel’s side of the disputed frontier, the head of United Nations peacekeeping operations said.
      Lebanon didn’t respect as Israeli territory this spot along the UN-imposed “Blue Line,” said Under-Secretary-General Alain LeRoy. “They have reservations about the Blue Line,” he said.
      Israel rejected the UN’s offer to cut down the tree and, after waiting about five hours yesterday for the UN to settle the dispute, went ahead on its own, LeRoy told reporters in New York.
      “We asked for more time to ensure that both parties would agree, to ensure there would not be incidents,” LeRoy said. “Maybe we would have expected a bit more hours. Israel wanted to go on with cutting of the tree because they considered they had the right.”
      ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to businessweek.com

      • I am sure you commented before seeing my correction. My original comment was prompted by the fact the statment released by UNIFIL at the time was that they would investigate the matter. There was no mentioning before le Roy
        statments that they were trying to get the two parties to agree on a solution when Israel went ahead with the cutting. I do have faith in the UN and it’s sad that they can’t even make Israel wait a bit longer to avoid a potential conflict. I always apreciate being corrected though.

        • Oh, and also at the time, Israel stated that it got UNIFIL permission to do the cutting.

    • Leila, a very good question, about UNIFIL need an investigation on a matter they already determined. Of course, their mission from the beginning was to shield Israel from any form of Lebanese resistance to IOF provocations. They are proxies for IOF, to be precise, even mass-media in the West mentioned that people in the South Lebanon do not trust UNIFIL and see them as a foe, not a friend.

  9. My guess was that this incident was intended to draw attention away from a major Nasrullah address on the culmination of the Hariri assassination probe. The fallout from that event is where the conspiracies lie.

  10. When I was a little kid, my two sisters and I sat in the back seat of the family’s white-over-red Chevy BelAir. Hot vinyl upholstery, great big driveshaft hump that somebody had to straddle, and (gasp!) no air-conditioning.

    You think Israeli soldiers, fed a diet of Superiority and Neveragainavictim-think, and the tribal warriors on the Lebanese “side,” whether in uniform (and carrying US-made M-16 derivatives, from the pictures) or just keffiyehs, pressed up against each other in a physical and emotional equivalent of a hot back seat but writ very large, hold a candle to the viciousness and tenacity and appeals to Higher Authority of the Border Disputes about first, who gets Humped, and next, exactly which seam or pleat in the upholstery defines the territory of one or the other, and whether an Incursion Has Occurred? Or the sneaky provocateurial pinching, nudging, staring, blowing-on, and making-faces-at, leading to scratching, punching and eventually the Stopping of the Car until Behavior Improves? With the expectable but unintended consequence that the Stopping of the Car just took away the cooling breeze through the windows, and made it worse?

    Isn’t it nice to know that certain behaviors are not only universal but persistent, carried forward on large and small scales, because we as a species have not, and thanks to our mental and cultural limitations and biology, are likely never going to give our progeny the chance to Grow Up?

    Stop the dam’ car — I want to get off.

    • if somebody could not understand difference between defending owns’ land from colonisers and colonization of others’ land, one could still try to get a better picture than “tribal warriors” – and what is wrong with tribal warriors fighting Western colonialism be it in Africa, Asia or America?

      My grandfather died defending Soviet Union from Nazi colonization drive. I think he was a hero.

      • You just do not get my point — that humans will always find reasons to taunt and oppress other humans, and reaction and retaliation in and endless cycle is the best we can do as a species. We all have relatives who fought in Grand Justified Wars and Battles — I was dumb enough to enlist in the US Army in 1966, half-buying the nonsense about “dominoes” and Defending America Against The Commies. We all have friends and relatives who have taken front-line roles in the Great Game of RISK! that is the best we can manage to put ourselves to as a species, broken down into yes, groups of tribal warriors. My dad went off to the South Pacific to oppose The Evil Japanese Colonialists to Protect American Colonial Interests that Dr. Cole illuminates so often here. He did not die then, and maybe he was a hero, but it’s all part of a Your-Tribe-My-Tribe running racket that leads nowhere but to eventual extinction. At least as far as I can se.

        May I suggest that your reaction to what I wrote illustrates the principle?

        The horror is that humans can do better in spurts, but seem incapable of sustaining decency and goodness and sharing and all those other squishy, non-Heroic virtues outside a very small radius, tossing them down and picking up the clubs and spears and Hellfires and nukes at the slightest provocation.

  11. Israel is calling the bluff of Iran. Iran said they will teach Israel a lesson if they touch lebanon and Israel is telling them “Show me what you can”. a calculated provocation to bring forward the NATO bombing of Iran to the earliest possible date.

  12. I asked a Palestinian once if he thought there would ever be 2 states one for Palestine and one for Israel and he told me that “Israel will shoot missiles at itself first”. I got a funny picture in my head when he told me that.
    Anyway, he was serious. Since then I have understood the situation, I hardly question anything that happens there. I have been watching the situation long enough to know the Palestinian was right. Israel is always up to no good. Like a kid known to be a bully and a kid who claims to have been bullied by the bully, which one should we believe? Whatever the Arab says, I believe him.

    • You better ask one Israeli about how he sees the Palestinians and then you’ll be more even…. and sane.

  13. JTMcPhee is a babbling, Israel-bashing nut.

    Israeli soldiers are not “fed a diet of superiority” any more than any other soldiers or human beings anyplace else.

    • My tribe can beat up your tribe any day.

      I’m sure Wiki has THIS wrong too, right? link to en.wikipedia.org . And of course there is a great deal written in Hebrew and Arabic and all the other languages on just this subject. The Wiki links are just a good start.

      I was taught in Basic Training back in 1966 that the US Soldier is the Best In the World, Superior Morally And Physically And Mentally To All Others. Bet the Swiss and Argentines, et al., and such all get the same message.

      And the whole point of my little observation is that when it comes to what humans have put most of their capital and energies into, the great global war thing, there is nothing to choose between the kid sitting on the hump and the kids sitting next to the windows. They are all stuck in infantile behaviors. And not likely to change. Because we are as a species too small and fuddled to think or love our way out of this corner we have painted ourselves into.

    • Uhh, and in case you can’t get the message from what I wrote, it’s not “Israel-bashing,” it’s “Stupid-Human-bashing.”

      But of course we all have to hear and see through our personal filters, now don’t we? And understand only through our own personal sets of loyalties? Including you and myself.

      D’Oh!

  14. An important point is that Israel was today back in the SAME SPOT clearing trees again.

    If that isn’t an attempt to be provocative, I don’t know what is. Anyone with an interest in reducing tensions on the border would have stopped clearing trees for a while.

    I’m sorry, but between the initial reports that the Lebanese fired in the air, and Leila’s excellent point above that Israel and UNFIL already supposedly KNEW the tree was in Israeli territory, and adding in Robert Fisk’s point that the Blue Line was badly drawn after 2006 and has disputed points, I’d say there is no clear way to pin blame here on the Lebanese Army.

    Nonetheless the US Congress today suggested they would pull military aid to the Lebanese Army over the incident. This clearly indicates that Congress supports another Israeli attack on Lebanon, just as Bush supported the 2006 war.

    When we remember that Israel planned the 2006 Lebanese war for a year before Hizballah gave them an excuse to implement it, however feeble that excuse was, we cannot assume that Israeli is not deliberately being provocative here. The simulations they have been running – and today an Iranian official explicitly mentioned “Israeli military movements”, on which Iran is presumably very well informed by Hizballah, I must conclude that Israel intends a third Lebanese war at some point, probably as a prelude to a military attack on Iran.

  15. Opinions rampage over the middle east conflicts inundating facts.
    Fact: The UN “Blue Line” is an arbitrarily drawn division not necessarily conforming to historically established boundaries, e.g. between French Mandate (Lebanon) and English Mandate (Palestine).
    Fact: The Israeli “fence” does not designate actual borders between the countries. Had it been consistently constructed say 3 or 4 meters inside the boundary and at no point on or at the border, that removes any doubt about its representing an actual border, it would not and maintenance would be unquestionable. That question is created by the fence not being so consistently positioned.
    Fact: The maps of a nation indicating its border may be used by its military to protect and defend. Those places where the border is in dispute (the UN Blue line was/is disputed) extra care must be observed. From accounts it was. The Israeli informed UNIFIL who contacted LAF who responded that a 24 hour delay was required (reasonable in order to issue commands, directions, inform the front line units of the activity and to stand down from responding to appearance of encroachment of the border). It does not matter now, the lives are lost, but the Israelis did not accede to the Lebanese response for 24 hours before beginning activities, the consequences are attributable to that failure to accommodate. The UN Blue line does not supplant or replace Lebanese maps of their historically accepted borders.
    Fact: Warning shots fired are just that, warning shots, intended to direct and obtain attention, and not an assault upon another. Israeli response was artillery fire upon Lebanese positions including a civilian village backed up with helicopter gun-ships firing rockets striking Lebanese Army transport vehicles, killing 3 soldiers and a reporter. The Israeli response was not commensurate with the provocation but the Lebanese return fire on the Israeli position was completely within bounds of reason at the point it occurred.
    Fact: There are recognized rules of engagement by which military forces operate. Their purpose is to remove ambiguity and misinterpretation as much as possible. When a military force abandons those accepted guidelines and makes a policy of berserking as operational conduct, those rules of engagement become inoperative and all manner of response can be accommodated, usually those that do not end well for any concerned. Just ask the Lt Col. killed and the other seriously wounded if it is not so.

  16. I saw the map of where the incident occurred and it is clearly no Israeli side of Blue Line.
    Not “disputed territory”. Blue Line, is the international border recognized by the United Nations.
    Here is one place you can see it:
    link to 4.bp.blogspot.com

    Israel has informed the with United Nation in order to prevent any misunderstanding. I am amazed by some people here make this to sound like it was a dirty trick.

    There were several journalists there working for Lebanese side, yet there is no video of Lebanese soldiers firing in the air. Most certainly they would have published such pictures or movies if there were any. Conclusion: Lebanese did not fire in the air, they fired directly at the officer standing behind the tree cutter.

    There is nothing “spunky” or “bold” about murdering in cold blood . It is a criminal provocation.

    However to most people “Israel” is synonymous with “evil”. So they automatically condemn Israel does not matter what happens.

    • “Israel has informed the united nation in order to prevent any misunderstading”
      Viiit, I hope you agree that preventing misunderstading is not synonymous with informing, specially when an information needs to reach down the chain in order for that understanding to take place. Not to mention when politics is involved. And that is only in our daily lives. A 24 hour is not too much to ask of Israel in order for UNIFIL and the lebanese army to make sure no misunderstanding take place. Sometimes time is necessary for understanding. Wouldn’t you think the blood of Lebanese and Israelis was worth the wait?
      You are right, there are no videos of Lebanese soldiers firing in the air, but there are also no videos of them starting killing in cold blood.
      UNIFIL could have cut those trees for Israel Wiiit, but that would not be provocative and would not prompt our congress to rethink arm aid to the Lebanese army. Would it?

  17. Viiit:
    Israel never kills in Cold Blood. Israel kills in self-defense.

    This time may be Lebanese shot in self-defense. If you need an inquiry, Lebanese will do its own investigation just as Israel did investigation after killing nine Turkish nationals.

    • What a self-defense? The Lebanese opened fire out of the blue while UN observers next to them just shouted at them: “stop fire”, that’s all! In that case who needs those observers? Let the Israelis observe for themselves and take firm actions when necessary to stop the Hezbollah from full controlling of Lebanon, for the sake of Lebanon!

  18. They have to show Lebanese in south that instead of 2006 when they hide as rats in barracks or they evacuated by UN that this time they will fight I agree with one author of earlier comment that they do this because they know that they will have support of Hezbollah unit.

  19. You define “spunk” as an attack that the UN found was unprovoked? You’re losing me, Professor.

    • First of all, Steve, at the time I wrote that entry the UN had not “found” anything at all. It was the fog of war and the event was just being reported. Second, in the body of my posting I expressed deep regret for the death of the Israeli officer over this minor tree removal. I also expressed regret for the deaths of 2 Lebanese soldiers and an innocent civilian journalist in the riposte, which you have nothing to say about. Thirdly, all I said was that the Lebanese soldiers *perceived* an affront to their territorial sovereignty, which I am pretty sure they did, regardless of any later findings by others. In the past, including in the instance of the 2006 bombardment of a Lebanese army barracks in Beirut by the Israelis, the Lebanese army had chosen the better part of valor. So yes, in reaction to a perceived territorial encroachment the Lebanese army did respond with unusual spunk. The only way you can find fault with what I said is to refuse to see the Lebanese as human beings with their own legitimate feelings, grievances and motivations. Israeli propaganda about a cold-blooded sniper attack that was completely unprovoked is just that. UNIFIL told the Israelis there was a problem with the tree removal plan and pleaded with them to wait and to have UNIFIL do it so there would not be this sort of misunderstanding, and the Israeli officers arrogantly proceeded nevertheless. Given the thousands of aggressive Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty, the mistake that was made, if unforgivable, is nevertheless historically not difficult to understand.

      This subject is closed.

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