What We’re Following: Israeli-Lebanon Border Clash

Talk about border tensions: Israeli soldiers went out to trim a tree along its northern border with Lebanon and came under sniper fire from Lebanese soldiers. The IDF responded with tank and artillery fire, the Lebanese soldiers shot back with small arms including RPGs.

So far, the toll stands at one Israeli light-colonel, a battalion commander, three Lebanese soldiers and a Lebanese journalist killed; reports say an Israeli captain and five Lebanese wounded. UNIFIL peacekeepers have urged both armies to exercise “maximum restraint,” which seems unlikely at this point.

Already, Syrian President Bashar Assad said his country will stand by Lebanon in the face of Israeli “criminal aggression.” Some reports say the Lebanese casualties resulted from an Israeli helicopter firing missiles at an armored personnel carrier.

In a number of online conversations, people are wondering why an Israeli Lt. Col. and Captain were trimming trees along the Lebanese border.

— Greg Grant

photo: Haaretz

  • Clearing a sector? Focusing on aesthetics? That really is too bizarre.

  • JEFF

    Pruning a tree, a cause for war would be pure irony for the history books.

  • ShowMeTheMonkey

    It’s a method of war. When they say “trim a tree” they mean to confiscate olive trees and chop them down. As olive trees mature in years they can effectively ruin a local economy in minutes, effectively forcing people away from the area. They did the same all over Palestine (Particularly in the West Bank) and the Golan Heights.

    Not the only source but this contains the gist of their aggressive economy uprooting:

  • Logan

    They do it to clear fields of fire and maintain a line of sight for surveillance purposes. If you let the foliage grow up to much around your position, you run the risk of the enemy–particularly one that is less sophisticated and relies on getting close to make up for a lack of firepower–getting close to your positions and killing or capturing personnel of yours. The recent incidents of IDF personnel being captured/kidnapped/abducted (Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev) highlight the importance of having clear fields of fire and lines of sight between all border positions.

    “The attackers took advantage of a ‘dead zone’ in the border fence not visible from any of the IDF lookout posts and may have used a wheeled ladder to climb the fence.”

    It has nothing to do with topiaries.

    This isn’t the first time that people have died in these operations, however, and tensions have soared.

    It is also incidents like this that have started many wars. The Germans used a spurious incident like this at Gleiwitz as the precedent for invading Poland in 1939 and starting WWII.

    This is a big deal, but hopefully everyone will keep a cool head and it will all settle down.

  • ddd

    “light-colonel”? You mean, Lieutenant-Colonel. But yes, why such high-ranking officers?

  • blight

    Trimming foliage was behind the an incident in South Korea in the ’80s. Its “name” eludes me…

    Perhaps there was a clandestine reconaissance thing that went awry? Then again, why would a LTC go on reconaissance? There aren’t many things that might pull a LTC onto the Lebanese border, especially in light of the abduction risks.

    • Benjamin

      The incident involving the Koreans occurred in the 1970’s

      • Blight

        Axe murder incident, August 18 1976.

        Damn, this very month so long ago…

  • STemplar

    He was a reservist and is a landscaper by trade? Who knows.

  • Maxtrue

    Showmethemonkey….you already have. You live in quite a bubble…

  • Jacob

    Why not just bring in a sniper and have him fire away at the tree until it falls over? Or if it’s a really big tree use a bazooka.

  • jake

    Once again the so called best military in the world sure isn’t acting very professional. When will they learn….

  • According to the paper reports, sniper fire was at the observation post where was the colonel and the officers, not at the soldiers below trimming the trees. That makes sense as it puts the sniper at the same elevation in that mountainous area.

    • DodgeCity

      Appears that the colonel and the cpt was about 300 yards behind the actual fence. And as someone mentioned earlier, they are reservists belonging to the engineering corps.

  • Sev

    Does it matter if the Israeli’s were cutting trees? They were on their territory and were fire upon by a sniper. Israel had every right to shoot back. I’m damn tired of all the Israel bashing! They were clearing lines of fire most likely.

    • jweich

      Actually, they weren’t. They were using a crane with a guy in a cherry picker bucket over the fence into Lebanese territory. The most recent accounts I’ve read are that the Lebanese fired into the air to warn them off and the Israelis replied with deadly fire. The Israeli officer was shot subsequent to this.

  • Israeli

    This is a routine pruning. It is done because if foliage grows into the sensitive border fence it starts to interfere with the “touch” sensors of the fence. The fence is purely located on Israeli territory and is in most places actually located BEHIND the border for political reasons.

    This was a pure act of aggression by the Lebanese.

  • Grumpy

    “Trimming trees” The real question is this, “How were they trimming the trees?” ;-)

    • Israeli

      This is done usually the good old fashion way, with a pair of cutters. Sometimes there are chemical trucks that spray the fence against weeds.

  • Yamashita

    ‘This was a pure act of aggression by the Lebanese.”

    Yeah, quite aggressive. We will contract selective amnesia and forget about Israeli invasions, attacks, bombardments and overflights for the last 35 years against Lebanon.

    As a member of the world’s most privileged minority, perhaps you can tell me when the state of Israel is ever to blame or be held accountable for any of its numerous acts of aggression?
    As far you cats tell it, never.

    Must be nice having political and diplomatic cover from the world’s most powerful nation; we’ll see how long that lasts.

  • Yamashita

    That’s rich. Perhaps you are part of the Hasbara crowd or just uninformed.

    Hizbullah was created in 1982, in response to Israeli aggression and invasion, begun with the occupation of southern Lebanon in 1978. Hamas was also an Israeli creation to split Fatah and further discredit the Palestinians via the smear of Islamic fundamentalism.

    How about the Six Day War, initiated by the IAF and forecast by the US JCS to last 5-7 days in a report to LBJ. Some existential threat there my friend. Of course the children of the Old Testament need that existential threat, it defines your lives and relieves you of responsibility for your dreadful behavior.

  • Blight

    The easy solution would be to have a plane dispense a vat of Agent Orange along the border. Give every IDF trooper a respirator to avoid teratogenic effects and it’ll save everyone the trouble of cutting some trees.

    That or use an armored vehicle with a flamethrower to incinerate the trees…?

  • Maxtrue
  • Yamashita

    So the word “peace” was in the name giving it legitimacy? Nice. Portraying wanton aggression approved beforehand by the Reagan NSC as an act of reluctant peacekeeping? Go sell crazy somewhere else.

    Once again we see the little Israeli imperial project trying to remake the ME to its liking, the zealots smiting every last last foe to create Greater Israel. Support for Israel is a mile wide and an inch deep in American popular opinion. The bought and sold political class is another story.

  • Yamashita

    It is the Imperialist who colonizes. In this case, the West Bank, illegally.

  • jsallison

    It seems to me that Israel has had the capability to rewrite the map of the ME for quite some time and yet has chosen not to use it. I seriously doubt that Persia will be quite so perspicacious. Frankly, if it was my grandchildren at risk (as certain parties in the ME and their useful idiots elsewhere gleefully boast over and over again), I’d have ghosted their muslim @$$e$ in radioactive hellfire years ago and damn them all for making me do it.

  • Oblat

    So the rabid dog bites again. No need to point out that the Lebanese government is pro US. Hardly a week goes by these days without an Israeli act of war killing American allies.

    But by far the saddest moment was watching Obama kowtow to a country where he would be considered a 3rd class citizen and who’s Prime Minister openly mocks him as being an errand boy.

    • Since when is hezbollah an american ally or pro US? Actually, even disregarding hezbollah, I can’t think of a single arab government in the ME that is an american ally or pro US. People and governments may be subdued into temporary submission to the anglo-american imperialist will, but that’s a long way from being an american ally or pro US. In fact, I can’t think of single american ally or pro US gov anywhere on globe. You are hated everywhere you go, and with good reason. And it wont be long before you thieving imperialist and war provocateurs get booted out from all your military bases and embassies abroad.

    • Israeli

      Oh truly, shut the hell up.

      “Lebanese army confirms: We fired first:

      The Lebanon army’s spokesman has confirmed Israel’s claims that Lebanese forces fired first during Tuesday’s deadly border skirmish.

      In a statement issued to AFP and quoted by Lebanese daily al-Nahar Wednesday, the spokesman said that “the Lebanese Army opened fire first at Israeli soldiers”

      The IDF is still analyzing Tuesday’s events and officials are hinting that the writing has been on the wall for a long time now, given the warming ties between Hezbollah and Lebanon’s army. IDF officials estimate that the deadly ambush faced by Israeli troops Tuesday was orchestrated by a junior, radical officer, but that his actions apparently reflected the Lebanese army’s spirit.”.


      “Journalists were tipped off:

      Journalists and photographers were briefed in advance of the intention to ambush IDF troops and were therefore present at the site of Tuesday’s deadly clash between Israeli and Lebanese forces, IDF officials charge.

      The lethal skirmish ensued after IDF forces performing routine operations in a border-area enclave came under Lebanese fire. The Israeli troops fired back, killing three Lebanese soldiers and a local journalist.

      The killed correspondent, Assaf Abu Rahal, worked for HEZBOLLAH-affiliated Beirut daily al-Akhbar.

      Another journalist, Ali Shuaib from HEZBOLLAH’s al-Manar station, was wounded in the incident and was taken to hospital for treatment.

    • randall

      Please ignore it, this thin inmate is a forum troll, don’t reply it just feed it.

  • Trimming a tree? Seriously? Way to spread the Propaganda!

  • Oblat

    >I can’t think of a single arab government in the ME that is an american ally or pro US

    Well there is your problem isn’t it. Though why you would want to flout your ignorance beats me.

    Israel runs covert operations into Lebanon all the time and this time they just got caught. The excuses about tree pruning is just the normal half-witted spin. But it is demonstrative of the Israeli minds-set and the contempt they hold for Americans.

  • STemplar

    Sure woulda been alot easier if the arabs and palestinians just abided by UN res 181 to start with.

  • aaron

    Dude why do yall support Lebanon doesn’t make sense? What do they do for you? If Israel is destroyed or taken over the world would be a different place for the worse. Probably breed more terrorists then end up in another world war

  • aaron

    The world would be a better place with out Allah and the Arab nations. They’re garbage!

    • Riceball

      You do realize that Allah is simply the Arab word for God, don’t you?

  • Jonathan

    I was privileged to know and serve under Lt Col Harari since ’96 in one of the 920th’s infantry companies as First Sgt.

    The officers were at an observation post approx. 500 meters away from the border fence observing the clearance of foliage obstructing video cameras on the Israeli side used for remote viewing. The clearance of these branches on the Israeli side of the border had been cleared with UNIFIL in advance. Lt Col Harari and the Company CO came under sniper fire aimed directly at their position, the Lt Col was killed and the Company CO (Captain) was seriously wounded.

    It is clear that information supplied to UNIFIL under agreement by the IDF was passed to LAF who then used it to position snipers to specifically ambush and kill officers on the observation point.

    The intent of this was twofold: to further increase border tensions in the hope of provoking a more serious Israeli response and secondly to distract attention away from the impending report on the assassination of Rafik Al Hariri; where guilt is going to be clearly laid at Hizbollah’s feet. Thus Lebanese journalists were onsite for the ambush – this being how one was wounded by IDF fire.

  • Jonathan

    .. Conclusion: LAF has been infiltrated by Hizbollah sympathizers or actual agents at non-com and officer level and LAF has become their latest weapon in maintaining Hizbollah / Iranian sponsored stranglehold of the Lebanese political-military infrastructure.

    The real question is (generally) what changes will be instituted in IDF rules of engagement / protocols for patrol or maintenance of the border fence and surrounding areas and (specifically) if the LAF officer who ordered this ambush is living on borrowed time.

  • Israeli

    Here is a picture showing the fence and the actual border:

    (Yellow is fence and blue dots are the border) http://idfspokesperson.files.wordpress.com/2010/0

    As you can see the IDF troops were clearly inside the border no matter how you put it. And in addition the initial firing on the IDF was not directed at the troops themselves, rather at an observation point where there were IDF officers in attendance much further away.

    • Israeli

      And the actual border is actually marked with a barbed wire tangle that clearly denotes it and separates it from the fence, there are very few places where the barbed wire is missing.

  • Cannon Fodder

    Many in the US do not understand Israel’s predicament. They are surrounded by enemies on every side that have the religious belief that they must destroy Israel. Israel is about the size of New Jersey. To get a feel for what they are dealing with, imagine if it was the cold war again, but this time, the US only owns New Jersey and the Russians owned the US and Canada.

    Until Musslim aggression ends, Israel will always be fighting these border wars.

  • Oblat

    Israel would have made peace with it’s neighbors long ago if we weren’t sponsoring it’s overwhelming sense of impunity. Just look at it’s friends – are there any which aren’t pissed off with Israeli behavior ? are there any it hasn’t killed the citizens of ?

  • Sam


    * Published 02:37 05.08.10
    * Latest update 02:37 05.08.10

    Only we’re allowed
    After Tuesday’s border clash, Israel will continue to ignore UNIFIL and the Lebanese army.
    By Gideon Levy Tags: Israel news IDF Lebanon Hezbollah

    Those bastards, the Lebanese, changed the rules. Scandalous. Word is, they have a brigade commander who’s determined to protect his country’s sovereignty. Scandalous.

    The explanation here was that he’s “indoctrinating his troops” – only we’re allowed to do that, of course – and that this was “the spirit of the commander” and that he’s “close to Hezbollah.” The nerve.

    And now that we’ve recited ad nauseum the explanations of Israel Defense Forces propaganda for what happened Tuesday at the northern border, the facts should also be looked at.

    On Tuesday morning, Israel requested “coordination” with UNIFIL to carry out another “exposing” operation on the border fence. UNIFIL asked the IDF to postpone the operation, because its commander is abroad. The IDF didn’t care. UNIFIL won’t stop us.

    At noon the tree-cutters set out. The Lebanese and UNIFIL soldiers shouted at them to stop. In Lebanon they say their soldiers also fired warning shots in the air. If they did, it didn’t stop the IDF.

    The tree branches were cut and blood was shed on both sides of the border. Shed in vain.

    True, Israel maintains that the area across the fence is its territory, and UNIFIL officially confirmed that yesterday. But a fence is a fence: In Gaza it’s enough to get near the fence for us to shoot to kill. In the West Bank the fence’s route bears no resemblance to the Green Line, and still Palestinians are forbidden from crossing it.

    In Lebanon we made different rules: the fence is just a fence, we’re allowed to cross it and do whatever we like on the other side, sometimes in sovereign Lebanese territory. We can routinely fly in Lebanese airspace and sometimes invade as well.

    This area was under Israeli occupation for 18 years, without us ever acknowledging it. It was an occupation no less brutal than the one in the territories, but whitewashed well. “The security zone,” we called it. So now, as well, we can do what we like.

    But suddenly there was a change. How did our analysts put it? Recently there’s been “abnormal firing” at Israeli aircraft. After all, order must be maintained: We’re allowed to fly in Lebanese airspace, they are not permitted to shoot.

    But Tuesday’s incident, which was blown out of proportion here as if it were cause for a war that only the famed Israeli “restraint” prevented, should be seen in its wider context. For months now the drums of war have been beating here again. Rat-a-tat, danger, Scuds from Syria, war in the north.

    No one asks why and wherefore, it’s just that summer’s here, and with it our usual threats of war. But a UN report published this week held Israel fully responsible for creating this dangerous tension.

    In this overheated atmosphere the IDF should have been careful when lighting its matches. UNIFIL requests a delay of an operation? The area is explosive? The work should have been postponed. Maybe the Lebanese Army is more determined now to protect its country’s sovereignty – that is not only its right, but its duty – and a Lebanese commander who sees the IDF operating across the fence might give an order to shoot, even unjustifiably.

    Who better than the IDF knows the pattern of shooting at any real or imagined violation? Just ask the soldiers at the separation fence or guarding Gaza. But Israel arrogantly dismissed UNIFIL’s request for a delay.

    It’s the same arrogance behind the demand that the U.S. and France stop arming the Lebanese military. Only our military is allowed to build up arms. After years in which Israel demanded that the Lebanese Army take responsibility for what is happening in southern Lebanon, it is now doing so and we’ve changed our tune. Why? Because it stopped behaving like Israel’s subcontractor and is starting to act like the army of a sovereign state.

    And that’s forbidden, of course. After the guns fall silent, the cry goes up again here to strike another “heavy blow” against Lebanon to “deter” it – maybe some more of the destruction that was inflicted on Beirut’s Dahiya neighborhood.

    Three Lebanese killed, including a journalist, are not enough of a response to the killing of our battalion commander. We want more. Lebanon must learn a lesson, and we will teach it.

    And what about us? We don’t have any lessons to learn. We’ll continue to ignore UNIFIL, ignore the Lebanese Army and its new brigade commander, who has the nerve to think that his job is to protect his country’s sovereignty.

  • crackedlenses

    Sure the Israelis are terrorists. How dare they settle in their former homeland, then defend themselves from peaceful, hateful, attacking Muslims who ditched the area to the Israelis when they put up a fight and established a flower in the desert that put the Muslim nations around them to shame. Surely their attempts to defend themselves are really acts of aggression against innocent suicide bombers who were only trying to kill women and children. Oh well, our Dear Leader, I mean our President doesn’t seem to like them.

    [ sarc off ]