JERUSALEM, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer and four Lebanese were killed on Tuesday during a border clash, the fiercest one since the fighting between Israel and the Lebanon-based Shiite group Hezbollah four years ago.
|A fire is seen on the Lebanon side of the Israel-Lebanon border following the|
fire exchange that took place this afternoon between Israeli and Lebanese troops,
Aug. 3, 2010. (Xinhua/Jini)
The gunfire and its response ensued when soldiers of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) fired at an Israeli troops working along the border around noon. According to Israeli army sources, the Israeli soldiers were clearing bushes between the Israeli community of Misgav Am and the Lebanese village of Aadaise.
"The IDF force immediately returned fire to an LAF force. Several minutes later an Israel Air Force helicopter fired at the LAF Battalion Command Center in Al-Taybeh, damaging several LAF armored combat vehicles," said an IDF statement.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon, IDF Northern Commander Gadi Eisenkott said the Lebanese soldiers "ambushed" an IDF unit and demanded that the Israeli soldiers, who were on a "routine maintenance," leave the area, and one began firing.
The soldiers were on routine activity in an area that lies between the "blue line" (the internationally recognized border between Israel and Lebanon) and the security fence, "thus within Israeli territory," said IDF spokesperson's office.
There are numerous hills, gullies and sharp turns in the area, limiting visibility, which led some analysts to suggest that the Lebanese soldiers misconstrued the distance between the Israeli vehicles and the border fence.
However, a Lebanese security official in the area said that the Lebanese army fired back after "the Israelis fired four rockets that fell near a Lebanese army position in the village of Adisah."
United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon to call on the two armies to exercise "maximum restraint" after the incident.
During the conflict, Lieutenant Colonel Dov Harari, an IDF battalion commander, was killed and a platoon leader was seriously injured. On Lebanese side, the clash left three soldiers and a journalist dead.
The clash brought huge tension to the two countries, which are technically still at war.
In a statement sent to Xinhua, IDF warned Lebanon of consequences over the deadly border clash, saying it's holding the Lebanon army responsible for the incident "that disrupted the calm in the region and its consequences."
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday evening demanded that the government investigate who was behind the "murderous attack." "Israel will not tolerate in any way an attack on her soldiers or civilians within her sovereign territory," he said.
The Lebanese leadership also filed a protest with the UN and roundly condemned Israel's "violation of Lebanese sovereignty and demands ... the UN and the international community bear their responsibilities to pressure Israel to stop its aggression," the Lebanese web portal Naharnet quoted the country's Prime Minister Saad Hariri as saying.
Egypt and Syria voiced support for Lebanon immediately after the lethal confrontation. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said Egypt is fully siding with Lebanon in the face of Israeli violations. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Lebanese President Michel Suleiman in a phone call that Syria stands by Lebanon against the "heinous aggression" launched by Israel on the Lebanese territories.