Israel, Lebanon 'committed to cessation of hostilities'
UNIFIL commander meets with senior IDF, Lebanese army reps at Nakoura crossing, urges them to avoid 'any action that could serve to heighten tensions.' Netanyahu to Lebanon and Hamas: Don't test our determination to defend citizens, soldiers of Israel
"Israel and Lebanon have agreed to respect the UN's resolutions," UNIFIL's commander said Wednesday night following a meeting with senior representatives of the IDF and the Lebanese army at the Nakoura crossing.
The meeting was held a day after the deadly exchanges of fire between Lebanese and Israeli soldiers along the so-called 'Blue Line' separating Lebanon and Israel.
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In a statement issued after the meeting, peace force commander Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas said he called for restraint from all sides and avoidance of "any action that could serve to heighten tensions."
He said UNIFIL was still investigating the clash, but preliminary findings were presented at the meeting.
"Both parties renewed their commitment to the cessation of hostilities ... and undertook to work with UNIFIL to ensure that incidents of violence are avoided in the future," the statement read.
Tuesday's violence began after Israel soldiers used a crane to reach over a frontier fence to trim a tree whose branches, the Israeli military said, were tripping the fence's electronic anti-infiltration devices. It said its soldiers had stayed within Israel and the tree was south of the Blue Line.
Lebanese Information Minister Tareq Mitri acknowledged that the area was south of the line, but said it was still Lebanese territory. Israel and Lebanon dispute parts of the Blue Line.
In a diplomatic boost for Israel, UNIFIL said Israeli soldiers were inside Israeli territory when the border clashes erupted.
"UNIFIL established ... that the trees being cut by the Israeli army are located south of the Blue Line on the Israeli side," said UNIFIL military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Naresh Bhatt, referring to a border line drawn by the United Nations after Israeli troops withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000.
In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the UN finding was conclusive. "The firing by Lebanese armed forces was totally unjustified and unwarranted," he said, while calling on both sides to show restraint.
Israel was represented at the meeting by Brigadier-General Yossi Heiman, head of the Division for Strategic Planning and Foreign Relations in the IDF's Planning directorate. Heiman tressed the legitimacy of the IDF's operations in the area and the fact that the Lebanese troops had fired first, without reason.that Israel's activity in the area was legitimate, adding that the Lebanese attack was unprovoked.
Meanwhile, Danny Carmon, the deputy head of Israel's mission to the UN, asked that the UN's representatives in Lebanon brief the Security Council on Tuesday's incident and present their findings.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Lebanese government and Hamas were responsible for escalation in violence on Israel's northern and southern borders.
"I want to make it clear to Hamas and to the government of Lebanon that we consider them responsible for the violent provocations against our soldiers. Do not test our determination to defend the citizens and soldiers of Israel," he said in a televised speech Wednesday.
"Our policy is clear: Israel responds and it will continue to respond aggressively to every attack on its citizens and soldiers."
Yitzhak Benhorin, AP contributed to this report
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