Israel Cuts down Lebanon Trees under UNIFIL Eyes
SOURCE: Al Manar
04/08/2010 Israeli occupation troops on Wednesday uprooted trees along the Lebanese-Palestinian border, completing yesterday’s aggression that ended up with the martyrdom of three Lebanese, two army soldier and Al-Akhbar newspaper journalist Assaf Bou Rahhal. A senior Israeli officer was also killed.
AFP reported that the occupation troops were seen using a crane that reached over a fence in the border area near the village of Odeisseh and uprooting trees that were then thrown inside occupied Palestinian territory.
The Israelis apparently proceeded with the operation as the trees allegedly blocked their view into Lebanon.
OTV reported that Lebanese Army Forces (LAF) commander General Jean Kahwaji was on his way to Odeisseh.
Israel’s security cabinet meanwhile was meeting in occupied Jerusalem on Wednesday to discuss the Tuesday’s skirmish, the worst clash on the border since 2006 July war.
The ministers were to discuss “the consequences of the attacks for which the Lebanese government is responsible,” said a senior Israeli official, who asked not to be named. “It is evident that the Lebanese government is doubly responsible: the attack against our soldiers occurred when they were on Israeli territory and it is Lebanese soldiers who opened fire and forced us to respond,” he added.
LEBANESE ARMY READY TO RETALIATE
A Lebanese army spokesman told AFP that Lebanon stands ready to retaliate in the event of any new aggression. “The answer will be the same in the event of any aggression along the border,” the spokesman said. “Any aggression against Lebanon will have serious consequences.”
He added that the army was in contact with the U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, after Israel’s army radio said that troops planned to try again to uproot a tree in the border area.
The Israeli occupation said its troops were fired upon while conducting maintenance work along the border, and that UN forces had been notified in advance. Lebanon said its troops opened fire after an Israeli patrol crossed the border fence.
UNIFIL DEFENDS ISRAEL
The UN force stationed in southern Lebanon issued a statement on Wednesday saying that the trees being cut were located on the “Israeli side” of the border.
A UNIFIL official told Israeli Army Radio on Wednesday that the Israeli occupation forces did not cross the border with Lebanon before the deadly clash adding that the UN force had been dealing with complaints of Lebanese provocations on a daily basis.
UNIFIL’s senior political adviser Milos Strugar said that Israel had “informed UNIFIL that it was going to conduct maintenance works on the border”, adding that while the Israeli unit had been “on the northern side of the border fence,” it was nonetheless “south of the international borderline.”
However, the UNIFIL official added that the information he had was “preliminary,” adding that he will look into the evidence “more thoroughly” later in the day. “The situation became tense right away, with the Lebanon army also being there,” Strugar said, adding that UNIFIL forces had tried “to calm the situation and allow the IDF to work.”
“We deal with complaints on provocations of Lebanese soldiers against IDF units on a daily basis,” Strugar told Army Radio, adding incidents occur “almost every day, there’s a lot of tension round the border, but what happened is the worst incident since 2006.”
UNIFIL asked the Israeli army to delay the operation on the grounds that the force’s commander was then in New York. But the Israeli occupation forces did not see this as valid grounds for delay, so at 10:30 A.M. the work began.
Lebanese army knew about the operation so they got close to the border area and began shouting at them to leave, but the Israelis did not respond.
UNIFIL ROLE UNACCEPTABLE
Lebanese media lashed out at the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, calling it an “impotent” bystander, AFP observed.
“The impotent international forces beat a retreat, left the place of combat and watched the unfolding events from afar,” said the daily As-Safir. UNIFIL had asked its soldiers only to “make a show of arms … against enemy forces,” the newspaper said. It had “encouraged (the enemy) with its reticence, without effectively intervening to prevent the Israeli aggression,” the newspaper added.
Al-Anwar daily mocked the multinational force, saying it “fulfills its role perfectly” when things are calm. “But … when confrontations flare it is only a simple spectator, which contacts the two parties to try to restore calm and then submits a report to the Security Council,” the newspaper said.
Daily An-Nahar said: “The question is, what to do if the incident is repeated … in particular regarding the claimed role of UNIFIL.” “Why did UNIFIL not help the army, at least by offering first aid?” it questioned, citing senior sources involved in calming the tension. It said an organization such as UNIFIL was “obliged to deal with the evacuation of casualties.”
On Tuesday, Al-Manar television aired images of two Indonesian soldiers, presumably from UNIFIL, leaving the site of the skirmish in a shared taxi.
New TV spoke of the “escape” of UNIFIL soldiers.
Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah vowed that the resistance would not “stand idly” by in the future. “We told our fighters to hold back, not to do anything,” his eminence said in a speech transmitted by video link to thousands of supporters massed in Hezbollah’s stronghold in Beirut’s southern suburbs.