UNIFIL forces who toured the site of Tuesday's deadly exchanges of fire on
the northern border said the IDF's activity did not warrant the attack launched by Lebanese Army soldiers, Israeli army officials who spoke to UNIFIL representatives said.
According to the IDF, soldiers were performing routine operations in a border-area enclave within Israeli territory when they were ambushed by Lebanese troops.
During the incident, which took place mid-day Tuesday, Lebanese soldiers ambushed an Israeli Engineering Corps force operating on the Israeli side of the border. The Israeli soldiers were clearing bushes along the border fence. According to the army, such activity has become routine since the conclusion of the Second Lebanon War.
Lieutenant Colonel Dov Harari, 45, who commanded the IDF force, was killed in the skirmish, and 30-year-old reservist Captain Ezra Lakia was seriously injured. Two Lebanese soldiers and a local reporter were also killed.
Bombed Lebanese outpost (Photo: AP)
Israeli army officials believe the Lebanese force was operating under a company commander whose decision to open fire on the IDF troops was supported by higher-ranking Lebanese officers.
The Lebanese Army claimed it had opened fire on Israeli soldiers who infiltrated Lebanese territory. The IDF retaliated with artillery and tank fire, and the Air Force attacked Lebanese Army positions in the village of al-Taibeh.
A senior IDF officer called the border incident a "painful and significant milestone in the fragile relations along the northern border between the IDF, UNIFIL and the Lebanese army."
The army estimates that the Lebanese officer in charge of the attack was an extremist.
Another officer said, "We do not have the luxury of suspending our activity (along the border). There is an enemy here who is following our every step. If you don’t act – someone acts against you."