(Communicated by the IDF Spokesman)
(13:20) An IDF force was fired upon from within Lebanon. The soldiers were on routine activity in Israeli territory, in an area that lies between the "blue line" (the internationally recognized border between Israel and Lebanon) and the security fence, thus within Israeli territory.
Location of the incident, west of the Israeli town of Misgav-Am in the Galilee, along the Israel-Lebanon border (IDF Spokesperson)
IDF force clearing trees and brush inside Israeli territory (Photo: Reuters)
(16:00) Earlier today during the mid-day hours, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) fired at an IDF position along the Lebanese border in northern Israel . The force was in Israeli territory, carrying out routine maintenance and was pre-coordinated with UNIFIL. The border area is west of the Israeli town Misgav Am. The incident occurred east of the internationally recognized "Blue Line" (the border between Israel and Lebanon ) and west of the security fence, thus lying in Israeli territory.
The IDF force immediately returned fire with light arms at a force of the LAF, and the IDF also made use of artillery fire. Several minutes later an Israel Air Force (IAF) helicopter fired at the LAF Battalion Command Center in Al-Taybeh, damaging several LAF armored combat vehicles.
The IDF holds the LAF responsible for the incident that disrupted the calm in the region, and its consequences.
The IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi arrived at the Israeli-Lebanese border, is following the events closely as they unfold, and is constantly holding situation assessment reports with the OC Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, as well as the Galilee Regional Division commander and additional commanders
The Israeli public in the Galilee region are asked to carry on with their routine way of life.
Lt. Col. Dov Harari
(19:00) An IDF officer was killed today by the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) fire in the Israel- Lebanon border. The officer is Lt. Col. Dov Harari (45) from Natanya. Harari served as a battalion commander. IDF platoon commander, Captain Ezra Lakia from Kfar Ha’Rif was critically wounded.
(23:00) GOC Northern Command: "This was a planned ambush."
During the grave incident in the North, Lt. Col. (res.) Dov Harari was killed, and Cpt. (res.) Ezra Lakia was critically wounded. Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot called it an "initiated and provocative action by the Lebanese army, without any provocation from our territory. Full responsibility lies on the Lebanese army."
"The Lebanese army used sniper shooting, and hit two commanders of our forces. It is our understanding that this was an initiated and provocative action by the Lebanese army, which executed the shots fired towards the force within territory of the State of Israel with no provocation from our territory. We view this shooting as an extremely severe incident," he said.
According to Maj. Gen. Eizenkot, the IDF force which responded to the incident was made up of soldiers from the Israeli Air Force, the Armored Corps and the Artillery Corps, for an immediate response. "Afterwards, we executed artillery fire and helicopter fire towards a Lebanese army position commanding the area. We fired additional shots towards the LAF Battalion Command that the soldiers belong to," he added.
During the IDF response, requests came from senior LAF officials for a ceasefire, in order to evacuate the injured Lebanese soldiers. "We agreed to a ceasefire, but a half hour afterwards, there were RPG shots fired towards an IDF tank. The rocket missed its target and the tank fired shots in response, destroyed the launchers, and continued to fire towards an LAF position," he added.
Aug 4: On Wednesday morning (Aug. 4) IDF engineering machines entered the Blue Line enclave, where the severe shooting incident between the Lebanese Armed Forces and the IDF took place a day earlier, and completed their routine pruning work in the field.
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.
Aug 5: On Wednesday evening (Aug 4), representatives of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) met at the peacekeeping force’s Naqoura headquarters in southern Lebanon. The meeting took place not far from where the grave incident in which the LAF opened fire on IDF forces operating in Israeli territory occurred earlier that day. The meeting was convened by UNIFIL in order to prevent deterioration in relations between the two armies.
The IDF was represented by Brig. Gen. Yossi Hyman, Head of Strategy in the IDF Planning Department, who was brought together with an LAF representative and UNIFIL Commander Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas. During the meeting, Gen. Cuevas urged both parties to exercise restraint in order to "refrain from any action that could lead to an escalation."
Gen. Cuevas asked the LAF and the IDF to cooperate with UNIFIL, in order to prevent any future misunderstandings which could result in even worse consequences. "UNIFIL is in contact with both sides, in order to ensure that the situation in the area is under control and that there is no violation of the Blue Line," it was reported. Gen. Cuevas also stressed that UNIFIL is still investigating the incident, but initial findings were already presented at the meeting.
UNIFIL Spokesman Narsh Bahat reiterated that "UNIFIL found that the trees pruned by the IDF are located south of the Blue Line and are therefore located inside Israeli territory."
The Blue Line: an internationally recognized border between Israel and Lebanon
The Blue Line is an international border between Israel and Lebanon which was determined by the United Nations after the IDF withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000. Aside from some slight differences, this is in fact the line towards which the IDF withdrew upon conclusion of Operation Litani in 1978, according to UN Security Council Resolution 425. From the First Lebanon War until 2000, IDF forces remained beyond this border line. However, upon the Israeli government’s decision for a unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon, the IDF forces returned to Israel and remained, with recognition by the UN of a complete withdrawal by Israel to her authorized and legitimate borders.
The Blue Line is a temporary line which has not been mentioned in any official agreements between Israel and Lebanon, and which is based on the international border which was determined by the countries in 1923. That being said, it is recognized as a de facto border between the two countries.
During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the IDF crossed the Blue Line and operated there for the duration of a month. However, upon completion of the war and the approval of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, IDF withdrew behind the internationally recognized border line.
On Tuesday morning (Aug. 3), IDF forces operated within Israeli territory on the Israeli side of the Blue Line borders, where the IDF has routinely operates in an agreed-upon manner since the end of the Second Lebanon War. Gunshots fired by the Lebanese army towards IDF forces constitute a blatant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, and an attack on Israeli sovereignty.