Yesterday, 3 August 2010, IDF forces were conducting routine maintenance work, which had been coordinated with UNIFIL, on the technical fence near the border with Lebanon (the ‘Blue Line’ is the internationally recognized border), when they were attacked by Lebanese Armed Forces. An LAF sniper opened fire at IDF officers observing the work, killing Lt. Col. (Res.) Dov Harari , and critically wounding Captain (Res.) Ezra Lakia.
The IDF force responded immediately to the attack, returning 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.
Below is the trascript and a link to an interview with UNIFIL advisor, Milos Struger and Israeli Army Radio from this morning. In the interview, Struger confirms that the IDF had coordinated with UNIFIL in advance as well as that the IDF was below the Blue Line, i.e. within Israeli territory.
Golan Yochpaz, Israel Army Radio broadcaster, interviews Milos Struger, a Senior Political Advisor to the Commander of UNIFIL Forces along the Israeli-Lebanese border.
Yochpaz: “Those in charge of keeping the peace in the tense region on the border between Israel and Lebanon are UNIFIL soldiers, who were witnesses to the incident between two sides yesterday. The Hungarian diplomat Milos Struger who is used as a political advisor for the commander of the UNIFIL forces in the area, and is located with the UN forces there. A few hours ago we spoke to him over the phone and spoke about what appeared to be a planned deadly ambush by the LAF against the IDF. Struger clarifies that the IDF operated accordingly, and notified us accordingly about their intent to work to clear the region. It is not clear to us how such a routine activity, which occurs almost daily, ended with casualties to both sides.”
Struger: “IDF informed UNIFIL that they are going to do some work cutting the tree from the other side north of the technical fence but south of the blue line. The situation on the ground quickly became tense because the LAF also deployed their forces on the ground. We also had our own people who were trying to diffuse this tension.”
Yochpaz translates Struger’s comments.
Yochpaz: “We now ask from Struger according to his facts, where exactly did the IDF work on the trees in relation to the boundaries on the map.”
Struger: “It was in the area of al Adessa just north of Misgad Am. Tomorrow we will have a technical team to exactly establish the location in relation to the blue line.”
Yochpaz translates Struger’s comments
Struger: “I can confirm that we received notification from the IDF early in the morning about this work, and we conveyed this to Lebanese army. Our investigation has been launched today…”
Yochpaz: “We asked him if the IDF coordinated the activity with the LAF through UNIFIL and he confirms the statement, saying it was coordinated. We received the message in the morning and gave to the Lebanese army, meaning the Lebanese army knew about the event. Our investigation is not yet complete and I am waiting for final report that we will be released today. After UNIFIL workers will meet with Lebanese Army representatives and Israeli army representatives and present their findings. In Israel we know about a string of provocations and baiting that have occurred recently against IDF soldiers. How does UNIFIL intend to act in regards to this issue? We now ask the Hungarian diplomat.”
Struger: “Daily basis we are dealing with all the different situations. Sometimes there are incidents and we manage to resolve the potential danger.”
Yochpaz translates Struger’s comments and adds: “This is the most serious incident to occur along the Lebanese border since 2006.”