The Day In Israel: Thursday Aug 5th, 2010

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UNIFIL yesterday issued an official statement supporting IDF claims that LAF forces shot Israeli soldiers operating within Israeli territory, thus violating the internationally recognized Blue Line.

UNIFIL
AP

Following the shooting incident which took place on Tuesday (Aug. 3) along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, the UNIFIL force stationed in the region has issued official statements specifying that the IDF soldiers who were shot while pruning a tree were in fact within Israeli territory.  According to the statement, “the trees being cut by the IDF are located south of the Blue Line on the Israeli side.”

The official UNIFIL statement describes Lebanese and Israeli reservations which were voiced in 2000 when the Blue Line was identified as the line of withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon. “However,” it continues, “both Lebanon and Israel confirmed to the UN Secretary General that, notwithstanding their reservations, identifying the Line was solely the responsibility of the United Nations and that they will respect the Line as identified. The UN position is that the Blue Line must be respected in its entirety by all parties. “

UNIFIL is in contact with both the parties to keep the situation under control and to ensure that there is no violation of the Blue Line in this area.

In an attempt to keep the current situation under control and to prevent any further violations of the Blue Line, UNIFIL Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas has called an “extraordinary tripartite meeting” with Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and IDF officials. The meeting is scheduled to take place Wednesday evening (Aug. 4) in the Ras Al Naqoura UN post in southern Lebanon. The meeting will “address the serious situation that developed in the last two days” and will attempt to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

But I’m not sure the Lebanese got the memo.

In Beirut, Information Minister Tareq Mitri acknowledged that the area was south of the line, but said it was still Lebanese territory.

..nor our so-called peace partners Jordan.



Jordanian Prime Minister Samir Rifai spoke with his Lebanese counterpart Saad Hariri to emphasize his government’s support for Beirut.

“Rifai expressed Jordan’s support for Lebanon, saying the kingdom rejects any aggression against Lebanon,” Jordan’s state-run Petra news agency said.

Meanwhile, the US response was better than this, but disappointing nonetheless.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Wednesday that the firing by Lebanese armed forces on Israeli troops near the Israel-Lebanon border on Tuesday, which killed one Israeli officer and seriously wounded another, was “totally unjustified and unwarranted” while calling on both sides to show restraint.

The Lebanese shooting on Tuesday prompted an Israeli response which left two Lebanese soldiers dead, as well as a Lebanese journalist.

“We don’t want to see this happen again,” the State Department spokesman said, echoing sentiments he had voiced the previous day. Israeli officials expressed disappointment on Tuesday with the U.S.’s “neutral” response to the shooting incident, in calling on both sides to show restraint. The U.S.’s failure to assign blame on Tuesday prompted Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren to hold talks with senior administration officials, demanding a harsher response.

Crowley did point the finger at the Lebanese army, but was careful to voice support for the Lebanese side as well, saying “we support the government of Lebanon. We support efforts by Lebanon to increase its ability to exercise its sovereignty over its entire country.”

“We appreciate the work of the United Nations both to hold this meeting today, you know, to create the cease-fire yesterday. We’re going to be working intensively to see that tensions along this border are eased.?”

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

8:42PM: Honest Reporting asks the questions that need to be asked regarding the presence of 5 photographers at routine IDF maintenance work that led to the Lebanon-Israel border clash.

8:38PM: IDF soldier dancers: The Next Generation.

8:34PM: G-d bless Reginald Levy.

1:58PM: Even though UNIFIL found Israel was not to blame for Tuesday’s clash, UN officials have nevertheless found something to blame Israel for.

At a critical juncture during Tuesday’s fighting along the Lebanese-Israeli frontier, the Israeli general responsible for liaison with UN peacekeepers did not pick up his phone, three UN officials said yesterday.

It was the first time since the 2006 Lebanese-Israeli war that the multinational UN Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) was unable to communicate directly with key officials of the Israeli military, formally known as the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).

“At some point at the height of the incident, IDF-Tel Aviv command closed contact with Unifil,” one UN official told The National.

Communication did eventually resume, but no formal ceasefire ended the fighting. Instead, the official said, “both sides just stopped shooting”.

At that point, a large force of peacekeepers was deployed and Unifil’s deputy commander, Santi Bonfanti, was sent to survey the area by helicopter.

“When they stopped shooting, Unifil took the action of flying in the deputy commander, and we said: ‘We’re flying in, don’t shoot.’ It probably froze a situation that still had the ability to escalate,” the UN official said.

A senior Israeli military spokesman yesterday denied that its forces were ever out of contact with Unifil, and said that there was a Unifil liaison officer present at all times.

Meanwhile, in the same report, UNIFIL admits they are useless.

UN peacekeepers did not escape the confrontation unscathed. Al Manar TV reported that in some cases, villagers attempted to block Unifil vehicles from fleeing the combat zone, demanding that they return and fight. But current and former Unifil officials said that at that point in the conflict, it was out of peacekeepers’ hands.

“I’ve been in these situations before,” said Timur Goksel, a former Unifil spokesman. “When everybody is determined to shoot each other, there’s nothing you can do.”

Maj-Gen Alain Pellegrini, the French officer who was Unifil force commander from 2004-2007, said: “The problem is, in cases such as this, if you intervene to protect the IDF, for instance, Unifil will be accused by Hizbollah or the people of protecting the Israelis, and collaborating with the enemy. On the other side, if we do the same with the Lebanese, Israel will accuse Unifil of collaborating with Hizbollah.”

1:50PM: Apparently, it’s not just Israel that thinks UNIFIL is pretty useless.

Lebanese media have lashed out at the UN Interim Force, which includes Indonesian soldiers, in Lebanon, calling it an “impotent” bystander after a deadly border skirmish between Lebanese and Israeli forces.

“The impotent international forces beat a retreat, left the place of combat and watched the unfolding events from afar,” said the daily As-Safir, which is close to the Shiite movement Hezbollah.

UNIFIL had asked its soldiers only to “make a show of arms … against enemy forces,” the newspaper said on Wednesday. It had “encouraged [the enemy] with its reticence, without effectively intervening to prevent the Israeli aggression,” the newspaper alleged on Wednesday.

Lebanese and Israeli troops traded deadly fire on their tense border on Tuesday in the worst clash since the 2006 war between the Jewish state and the Shiite Hezbollah. Two Lebanese soldiers, a Lebanese journalist and a senior Israeli officer were killed.

The 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 daily 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 border tension.

It said an organization such as UNIFIL was “obliged to deal with the evacuation of casualties.”

On Tuesday, Hezbollah-run Al-Manar television aired images of two Indonesian soldiers, presumably from UNIFIL, leaving the site of the skirmish in a shared taxi.

New TV, which also sympathizes with Hezbollah, spoke of the “escape” of UNIFIL soldiers.

I could not find the aforementioned footage, but I did find this footage of UNIFIL soldiers being attended to by local medics in a village near the fighting.

11:00AM: Jailed Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouthi – who many have advocated releasing from Israeli jail – has said palestinians should quit talking with Israel and get back to “resistance.” (i.e. terrorism)

With the help of “international solidarity movements.”

Talks with Israel have reached an impasse and their continuation harms Palestinian national interests, jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi said Wednesday.

Speaking with lawyer Elias Sabbagh at the Hadarim detention center where Barghouthi is serving several life terms, the Fatah leader slammed what he described as a trend which suggests talks are the alternative to “fruitless negotiations.”

Barghouthi called on rival Palestinian factions to enter into a unity deal and “reactivate” the popular resistance movement in cooperation with international solidarity movements as a viable alternative to negotiations.

And we already know he’s talking about terrorism and not mere “non-violent resistance.”

8:42AM: The Israeli Embassy in northwest Washington has received an envelope with a white powdery substance.

Embassy spokesman Jonathan Peled says the FBI took the envelope Wednesday evening for testing. There were no injuries.

D.C. fire and EMS department spokesman Pete Piringer says the envelope was found in the embassy’s mailroom. Piringer says hazardous material teams are conducting tests.

He says there are no illnesses or threats associated with the envelope and the building was not evacuated.

Embassy spokesman Jonathan Peled says the envelope was sent to the embassy, and not someone in particular. Peled says officials do not know who sent it and it wasn’t opened.

I’m guessing it’s not cocaine.

6:08AM: CNN adopts a “Lebanese army confused by location of Blue Line” approach, ignoring other possible (more likely) explanations such as “staged Hizbullah provocation.”

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