Israel doesn't blame Hezbollah

2010-08-04 17:02

Jerusalem - Israel's defence minister on Wednesday called a deadly border skirmish a Lebanese provocation but said it was a local incident not orchestrated by Hezbollah or the top brass of the Lebanese army.

"It was a very grave provocation and we reacted in a measured, just and immediate manner," Ehud Barak told public radio.

But at the same time, he stressed that "Tuesday's incident was not programmed by the chiefs of staff of the Lebanese army in Beirut or by Hezbollah".

The Israeli military believes the incident was caused by a radical Lebanese army officer who was not acting on orders from higher-ups, according to Israeli defence correspondents.

The officer, upon hearing from UN forces that Israel planned to conduct maintenance work along the border, invited media to the area to document the incident, an unnamed Israeli military official told public radio.

"One must act in such a way that a local incident does not degenerate into a full-blown crisis," Barak said.

"I hope there will be no escalation, that we will have a calm summer and that things will return to normal."

Each side blamed the other


The minister also worried that the US and France had "provided sophisticated weapons to Lebanon which were used in Tuesday's incident and could fall into Hezbollah's hands".

Each side blamed the other for sparking Tuesday's incident in which two Lebanese soldiers, a Lebanese journalist and a senior Israeli officer were killed.

Israel said its troops returned fire after being fired upon while clearing out shrubbery along the border. Lebanon claimed its troops opened fire after an Israel patrol crossed the border fence.

Israeli troops on Wednesday returned to the site and uprooted several trees.

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (Uunifil) on Wednesday said that the trees were on the Israeli side of the border.

"The UN announcement today clearly corroborates the Israeli version of events," government spokesman Mark Regev said.

"Our routine activity yesterday (Tuesday) was conducted entirely south of the frontier - on the Israeli side - and the Lebanese army opened fire without any provocation or justification whatsoever," he said.

Israel's security cabinet met on Wednesday morning to discuss the incident, which was the deadliest exchange of fire across the heavily-guarded border since the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia.

Read more on:    lebanon  |  israel  |  middle east peace
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