Israeli and Lebanese troops trade fire

UN official refuses to confirm if Israeli soldiers crossed Blue Line and prompted warning shots from the Lebanese side.

    The last major violent flare-up along the Israeli-Lebanese border was during the Nakba Day protest in May [Reuters]

    Israeli and Lebanese troops have exchanged fire along the countries' border, officials say.

    The Israeli and Lebanese sides offered different accounts of Monday's incident, which did not appear to have caused casualties.

    The Israeli military said its army unit was on a routine patrol within Israeli territory when it received fire on Monday morning from over the border in Lebanon near Ghajar, a disputed village which straddles a strategic corner where boundaries between Syria, Israel and Lebanon meet.

    It said UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping force stationed on the border, was informed of the incident, which took place at dawn.

    A Lebanese army official told the media that the incident occurred when Israeli solders crossed the Blue Line, the UN-drawn border with Lebanon which was established in 2000.

    "An Israeli patrol in the Wazzani area crossed the Blue Line and went beyond it about 30m," the official told various news agencies on condition of anonymity.

    "Lebanese troops stationed in the area fired warning shots," he said. "The Israeli patrol retreated and then fired at Lebanese army posts."

    Unclear violation

    Neeraj Singh, the UNIFIL spokesman, confirmed the incident but did not elaborate on whether Israeli troops had violated the Blue Line or not.

    "We can confirm that at around 7am this morning there was a brief exchange of fire between the Lebanese army and the Israeli army along the Blue Line in the general area of Wazzani," Singh said.

    "UNIFIL peacekeepers immediately responded to the location in order to contain the situation and prevent any escalation.

    "The firing has since ceased and the situation in the area is quiet. No casualties have been reported".

    Singh said the UN force had opened an investigation into the shooting.

    Speaking in front of parliament's defence and foreign affairs committee, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said "Israel is not looking for an escalation on the Lebanese border".

    "Israel is not looking for an escalation on the border with Lebanon," Netanyahu said on Monday, according to sources who were present at the scene.

    "There was an incident, the soldiers acted as they should and needed to have reacted, but we are not looking for an escalation."

    Michel Suleiman, the Lebanese president, praised his country's troops for defending the border against provocation from the "Israeli enemy".

    "The Israeli enemy tried today to again attack and provoke the Wazzani [area] and you stood in guard," Suleiman told Lebanese soldiers.

    Record of violence

    The last act of violence on the Israeli-Lebanese border was in May when Israeli soldiers fired on Palestinian demonstrators who swarmed the Lebanese frontier in an act of protest to commemorate the Nakba, the 1948 displacement of 700,000 Palestinians during the creation of Israel.

    Monday's fire exchange also came almost exactly a year after the two countries' troops traded fire, leaving two Lebanese soldiers and a journalist killed along with a senior Israeli officer.

    Israel fought a war in 2006 war against the Lebanese Shia political and military group, Hezbollah.

    In an another incident of violence on Monday, two Palestinian men were killed during an arrest raid on Qalandiya refugee camp in the West Bank's south.

    One man was shot in the head and the other in the abdomen. The Israeli army claimed the men were involved in stone-throwing and scuffles with Israeli solders.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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