The Lebanese army's fire on IDF troops working on Israel's northern border was "wholly unjustified and unwarranted," US State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley said Wednesday.
Crowley spoke after a statement released by the UN Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) declared that the trees troops were uprooting Tuesday, before shots fired by Lebanese soldiers killed Lieutenant Colonel Dov Harari and wounded Captain Ezra Lakia, were located the "Israeli side".
"UNIFIL has established... that trees cut by the Israeli army are located south of the Blue Line, the Israeli side," UNIFIL said Wednesday in a statement.
The Blue Line was drawn by the UN following the withdrawal of the IDF in May 2000 from southern Lebanon after 22 years of occupation to act as a border.
Despite UNIFIL's declaration, Lebanon has maintained that the IDF invaded Lebanese territory.
Representatives from the three sides – UNIFIL, the IDF, and the Lebanese army – met Wednesday night to discuss the shooting. The head of the Strategic Department in the IDF Planning Branch, Brig. Gen. Yossi Hyman, represented Israel in the meeting.
He stressed the legitimacy of the IDF's operations in the area and the fact that the Lebanese troops had fired first, without reason. UNIFIL said it would present the conclusions of its probe on the incident in a few weeks.
The severely wounded Captain Lakia, who is currently hospitalized in Haifa, spoke to reporters for the first time since the incident on Wednesday evening.
He praised the soldiers involved in the clash. "The troops continued to fight though their commanding officers were absent, after Harari and I were wounded," he said. "They fought bravely, opened fire on the Lebanese force, and killed anyone who was firing towards the IDF force."
Lakia underwent an operation Tuesday night to remove shrapnel from his chest. He left intensive care Wednesday afternoon after showing some improvement.
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