Monday, 18 April 2011

Israeli tanks enter disputed area with Lebanon

Tension at the Israel-Lebanon border; Source: Daily Star

Two Israeli tanks crossed into a disputed area of land on the frontier with Lebanon on Thursday 14th April after several people were spotted in the border zone.

The alert was sounded after several people were seen in the area and it was later determined they were picking thyme and thistle.

Lebanon's Daily Star said the incident resulted in a two-hour standoff, which saw Israeli soldiers aim heavy artillery at Lebanese military and UN Personnel.

“At 7:50 am, two tanks belonging to the Israeli enemy went beyond the Technical Fence on the outskirts of Adaysseh border village in a disputed area before leaving at 9:30 a.m. toward the Occupied Territories,” a Lebanese army communiqué said.

“Army units deployed in the area took suitable field measures and the issue is being followed up in coordination with [the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon].”

AFP reports have said that one Israeli Merkava tanks entered four metres into the disputed area along the UN-drawn Blue Line before withdrawing. The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) observed that one Israeli Defense Force (IDF) tank had crossed the Israel-erected Techical Fence and moved towards the Blue Line pillar marked BP36.

Another Israeli tank and other military vehicles were deployed in the area south of the Technical Fence. This prompted the Lebanese Army to mobilize with heavy artillery, and UNIFIL confirmed that a number of Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) personnel were deployed on the Lebanese side of the Blue Line.

According to the Daily Star, UNIFIL also sent reinforcements to the scene, and an Indonesian patrol with the international peacekeeping force was forced to wave the UN flag – an agreed gesture of pacification – when an Israeli patrol targeted them with heavy machine guns.

According to UNIFIL, no Blue Line violation was recorded.

The Blue Line is a UN-drawn border between the two countries, established in 2000. It is not an official international border, rather it marks the point Israel was required to withdraw from. There have been numerous incidents along the border in the decade since hostilities ceased and both sides have challenged the accuracy of the Blue Line in several locations.

Thursday's incident took place near the village of Adaysseh, which was the scene of a deadly border clash last August. Adaysseh sits a few meters from the Blue Line and Israel's Technical Fence. Last year's incident took place after Israeli troops cut down several trees in an area claimed by Lebanon. The clash resulted in the deaths of two Lebanese soldiers and a journalist, as well as a senior Israeli officer.

Lebanon routinely submits complaints to the UN Security Council over alleged Israeli violations of Resolution 1701, which stipulates that Lebanon's borders must not be breached. In addition to the presence of the tanks in disputed land, Lebanese media sources have also reported that 13 Israeli warplanes violated Lebanese airspace on Thursday, flying over the southern villages of Alma Shaab and Rmeish.

“The warplanes [12 of them] performed circular maneuvers in the skies over many Lebanese areas before leaving [the airspace] at 9:55 am over the village of Rmeish,” the guidance directorate of the Lebanese Army said in the statement, adding that another warplane had violated Lebanon's airspace earlier in the day over Rmeish and circled over the south, Ryak, Baalbeck and Hermel before leaving.

UNIFIL commander Major General Alberto Asarta Cuevas has been in contact with the command of both sides, stressing the importance of ensuring full respect for the Blue Line, reiterating the sensitivity of the Line and urging utmost caution in any actions that could be seen as provocative. He called on the parties to utilize the liaison and coordination mechanism through UNIFIL, particularly on matters relating to the Blue Line in order to minimize the scope for any misunderstandings or apprehensions that may increase tension and lead to escalation.

Sources: AFP, Daily Star, UNIFIL

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