Max Fisher at The Atlantic with the round-up. Fisher:
Israeli and Lebanese forces briefly exchanged fire across the border today, killing an Israeli officer, three Lebanese soldiers, and a Lebanese journalist. The conflict has sparked tension on both sides of the border and raised fears of a return to the periodic Israeli-Lebanese violence that most recently recurred in Israel’s 2006 invasion in retaliation against Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah.
Gregg Carlstrom at Al Jazeera live-blogged:
1:24pm: A few regional reactions. Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, phoned Sleiman and told him Syria “stands with Lebanon.”
And Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Egyptian foreign minister, spoke with Hariri and promised Egyptian support. He also called for “self-restraint,” and asked the UN to intervene to “de-escalate” the situation.
1:14pm: Many reports say this whole incident started because Israeli troops were trying to cut down a tree on the Lebanese side of the border.
The US television network MSNBC has posted a photograph that appears to show an Israeli soldier, in a crane, cutting down a tree on the Lebanese side of the border fence.
1:08pm: The Israeli military, which issued only a brief statement this morning on the clashes, just e-mailed a longer statement to reporters.
It claims an Israeli army unit was carrying out “routine maintenance” along the border, and that the work was “pre-coordinated” with UNIFIL, the United Nations peacekeeping force in the region.
The IDF force immediately returned fire with light arms at a force of the LAF, and the IDF also made use of artillery fire.
[…] The IDF holds the LAF responsible for the incident that disrupted the calm in the region, and its consequences.
12:56pm: Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, meanwhile, said Israel “holds the Lebanese government responsible” for the incident.
This recent violation is one of many violations of Resolution 1701, the most severe of which is the massive rearmament of Hizbullah, including the rearmament of Hizbullah units in southern Lebanon.
He also directed the Israeli representative at the United Nations to file a formal complaint about Lebanon.
12:51pm: Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, and Michel Sleiman, the Lebanese president, were the first two senior Lebanese politicians to comment on the clash.
Hariri’s statement was predictable: It condemned Israel’s “violation of Lebanese sovereignty” and demanded that the UN stop the fighting.
Sleiman said much the same thing, but he also included a message for the Lebanese army, asking it to “confront any Israeli aggression, whatever the sacrifices.”
12:45pm: There are many conflicting reports from southern Lebanon, but the latest confirmed details right now (from the Lebanese defence ministry) are that three Lebanese soldiers were killed, and four others wounded.
There are also reports of an Israeli soldier killed in the fighting – the Al-Manar television station, which is run by Hezbollah, has carried that story for an hour or so – but no confirmation from the Israeli military.
A journalist was also killed in the fighting; Lebanese media are identifying him as Assaf Abou Rahhal, from the Al-Akhbar newspaper.
Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs:
UNIFIL forces who toured the site of Tuesday’s deadly exchanges of fire on the northern border said the IDF’s activity did not warrant the attack launched by Lebanese Army soldiers, Israeli army officials who spoke to UNIFIL representatives said.
According to the IDF, soldiers were performing routine operations in a border-area enclave within Israeli territory when they were ambushed by Lebanese troops.
According to my sources:
- IDF in coordination with the UN and Lebanese army were working within Israeli territory to fix security cameras.
- Overconfident due to this coordinated effort, the soldiers did not mind the watchful eye of Lebanese soldiers at close range.
- Lebanese forces opened fire, Israel says a few soldiers were wounded (recent wording on Israeli news site suggest possible casualties).
- Israelies retaliated, killing 3 soldiers and a news reporter.
- Lebanese president came out in statements supporting further escalation.
- Rockets were fired again at northern Israeli towns.
- Lebanese villagers are packing their bags and fleeing.
- Israeli officials stated they do not wish to continue escalation, while certain operations within Lebanon are in action.
Edward Teller at Firedoglake:
In clear violation of U.N. Resolution 1701, which Israel signed at the conclusion of their ignominious defeat in July-August 2006, Israeli troops violated Lebanese sovereignty this morning, cutting down a tree on the Lebanese side of the border. An MSNBC video and still clearly show the Israelis, attempting to cut down the first tree on the Lebanese side of the border.
The Lebanese Army (not Hizbollah) responded with warning shots, then with live fire. The Israeli counter-reasponse apparently killed three Lebanese soldiers and a reporter. A sniper from the Lebanese side of the border then killed “a high-ranking Israeli officer.
Although Israel routinely violates Resolution 1701 (overflights, shelling of Lebanese fishing boats, etc.), Hizbollah has also done so, though less blatantly.
The Israelis are now responding with heavy artillery and rocket fire, as well as white phosphorus. Numerous Lebanese soldiers and civilians have been injured in the exchange, which is probably escalating to include Hizbollah rockets, as I write.
UPDATE: Israel Matzav
Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit
UPDATE #2: Daniel Levy at Foreign Policy