Israel kills Lebanese soldiers and a journalist from Al-Akhbar


Israel Defense Forces exchanged fire with the Lebanese army on Tuesday, killing three Lebanese soldiers and a Lebanese journalist, in what appeared to be the most serious military confrontation since Israel’s month-long war with Hezbollah in 2006.

The Lebanese army confirmed that two of its troops had been killed when Israeli forces fired on a vehicle in which they were traveling, setting it on fire and wounding another.

In Lebanon, security sources said that Israeli shells fired at the southern Lebanese border village of Aadassi hit a house, wounding two – a soldier and a civilian.

Lebanese troops responded with artillery fire, Lebanese press reports said, while eyewitnesses said fire had broken out in two buildings in the village.

“It started when the Israelis wanted to cut a tree down inside Lebanon,” one security source in Lebanon said. “The Lebanese army fired warning shots at them and they responded by shelling.”

Al Jazeera.

A journalist was also killed, and five more Lebanese soldiers wounded in the Israeli shelling on Tuesday.

“The Israelis fired four rockets that fell near a Lebanese army position in the village of Adaisseh and the Lebanese army fired back,” a Lebanese security official in the area said.

Hezbollah’s Al Manar television station said a high-ranking Israeli soldier was also killed in the border incident. The report could not be independently verified, and the Israeli army refused to comment.

Lebanese news sources reported that the journalist killed was Assaf Abou Rahhal, from the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar.

Lebanese witnesses said that Israeli shells are continuing to hit Adaisseh village.

The clashes erupted after Israeli soldiers reportedly attempted to uproot trees on the Lebanese side of the border.

Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, called it a “violation of Lebanese sovereignty and demands”.

He called in a statement for “the United Nations and the international community bear their responsibilities and pressure Israel to stop its aggression.”

Michel Sleiman, the Lebanese president, issued his own statement denouncing the clash as a violation of UN resolution 1701. That resolution ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, and called for both Israel and Lebanon to respect the Blue Line, the UN-administered border between the two countries.

Sleiman also called on the Lebanese army to “confront any Israeli aggression, whatever the sacrifices”.

“This is a very significant development,” said Rula Amin, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Beirut. “For the first time in years, clashes are taking place between Israel and the Lebanese army, not Hezbollah.”

Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, said Israel “holds the Lebanese government responsible” for the incident, and asked the Israeli envoy to the UN to file a complaint.

As’ad AbuKhalil (who’s been in Lebanon since May)

Al-Akhbar correspondent, `Assaf Bu Rahhal, died from wounds caused by indiscriminate Israeli shelling over South Lebanon.

Haaretz has featured reports about the escalating tensions with Lebanon (I didn’t take it seriously until this happened). Haaretz editorialised

Tensions are once again rising along the northern border, and talk of war is again being heard. Israel has warned Syria against transferring “upgraded” weaponry to Hezbollah and threatened to topple the Syrian regime if war breaks out. Syria has threatened to attack Israeli cities, and Iran has charged that Israel is planning to attack Syria and Lebanon.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met in Damascus recently with the leaders of Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas and prophesied a “Middle East without Zionists.”

etc. Meanwhile, Barak escalated threatening rhetoric against Lebanon.

In response to Jerusalem bureau chief Janine Zacharia’s question about what Barak means when he says that “Israel will hold the government of Lebanon responsible for any Hezbollah provocation,” Barak said:

It means that unlike what happened in 2006 where under request from the administration, [Secretary of State] Condoleezza [Rice] called at the time [Prime Minister] Olmert and asked him not to touch the precious government of Siniora, and we didn’t. I think that they’re responsible for what happens and if it happens that Hezbollah will shoot into Tel Aviv, we will not run after each Hezbollah terrorist or launcher of some rocket in all Lebanon. We’ll see the government of Lebanon responsible for what happens, and for what happens within its government, its body politic, and its arsenal of munitions. And we will see it as a legitimate to hit any target that belongs to the Lebanese state, not just to the Hezbollah. And somehow, we are not looking for it. I am not threatening. We are not interested in such a deterioration. But being surrounded by so many proxies that operate not just under immediate threat under them, but probably activated by other players for external reasons, we cannot accept this abnormality and I believe that no other sovereign would have accepted it.

I would’ve thought until now, surely Israel couldn’t be stupid enough to attack Lebanon now. Its international reputation is in tatters, this would be a complete disaster.

But the attack on the flotilla was insane too. I want to state right now my complete categorical opposition to any new Israeli aggression.


Fisk at the Independent.

That such a question can be asked is a symbol of the incendiary state of the region, the mutual distrust of Arabs and Israelis, and the dangerous border of southern Lebanon which was – as so often – drenched in blood yesterday, the blood of three Lebanese soldiers, an Israeli lieutenant-colonel and a Lebanese journalist outside an otherwise nondescript village called Addaiseh.

And after the tank shells, Israeli helicopter missile attacks, Lebanese machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire, the UN called on both sides to “exercise restraint” and the battle died down under the cold eyes of a Spanish UN battalion and a few soldiers from Malaysia.

But this comes after a tripartite Arab summit in Beirut, mysterious rocket attacks on the borders of Jordan, Israel and Egypt two days ago, a claim by the Lebanese Hizbollah that the UN inquiry into the murder of ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri was an “Israeli project”, and the discovery – on Monday – of yet another alleged Israeli spy in the Lebanese telephone network.

But back to the tree. It was a miserable, scrawny thing, probably a spruce and – after a 46-degree heatwave in Lebanon – its foliage blocked the Israeli security cameras on the Israeli-Lebanese border near Addaiseh. The Israelis decided to use a crane to rip it out. But there’s a problem. No one is exactly sure where the Israeli-Lebanese border is.

In 2000, the UN drew a “Blue Line” along what was – in those long ago, post-Balfour days – the frontier between the French mandate of Lebanon and the British mandate of Palestine. Behind it, from the Lebanese point of view, stands the Israeli “technical fence”, a mass of barbed wire, electrified wires and sandy roads (to look for footprints). So when the Lebanese army saw the Israelis manoeuvre a crane up to the fence yesterday morning, they began to shout at the Israelis to move back.

The moment the crane’s arm crossed the “technical fence” – and here one must explain that the “Blue Line” does not necessarily run along the “fence” – Lebanese soldiers opened fire into the air. The Israelis, according to the Lebanese, did not shoot in the air. They shot at the Lebanese soldiers.

Now for the Lebanese army to take on the Israelis, with their 264 nuclear missiles, was a tall order. But for the Israeli army to take on the army of one of the smallest countries in the world was surely preposterous, not least because Army Day had been attended by the president of Lebanon, Michel Sleiman, in Beirut only two days earlier – when he ordered his soldiers to defend their frontier.

At about this time, Al-Akhbar newspaper’s local correspondent Assaf Abu Rahal turned up in Addaiseh to cover the story. And a little time later, an Israeli helicopter –apparently firing from the Israeli side of the border (though that has yet to be confirmed) – fired a rocket at a Lebanese armoured vehicle, killing three soldiers and the journalist.

Lebanese troops, on orders from Beirut, fired back and killed an Israeli lieutenant-colonel. Hizbollah, the Iranian-paid Shia militia, which was not involved in the battle, announced his death five hours before the Israelis confirmed it; their information apparently came from an Israeli soldier using a mobile phone. It was top of the headline news on Hizballah’s Al-Manar television station.

All afternoon, the Israelis and Lebanese abused each other as aggressors. Israel said the whole thing was a misunderstanding. Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s prime minister and Rafiq’s son, was on the phone to President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, denouncing “Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty”, while Israel said it was taking the whole affair to the UN Security Council. “Israel views the Lebanese government as responsible for this serious incident and is warning of ramifications if the violations continue,” a spokesman said. Because of a tree? Of course, the Israelis would like to have a file of “incidents” before the next Hizbollah-Israel war, when they have promised to smash up Lebanon’s infrastructure for the sixth time in 32 years – on the grounds that Hizbollah is now represented (as it is) in the Lebanese cabinet. [Emphasis added]

And watch this video of a 5 year old desperately resisting Israeli soldiers arresting his father. It’s terrible.

Also, Scahill on the fake end of the Iraq war.

AMY GOODMAN: Respond to President Obama’s announcement.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, first of all, what President Obama is doing is implementing the policy that was on the desk of George W. Bush when he left the White House. This is essentially the Petraeus-Bush Iraq plan. So, the idea that Obama is making good on a campaign pledge to end the war is sort of playing with words, because the reality is he just implemented what was current US policy when he came into the White House.

What I think is more important for people to understand is, when President Obama talks about how the war is going to be shifted over to the diplomats, that doesn’t just mean that all of a sudden there’s going to be negotiations by pencil pushers. The fact is that Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, last month submitted a request to the Pentagon for an incredible beefing up of the State Department’s own paramilitary force. And what the State Department is saying is, when you take out all these combat troops, we want to have a replacement for that capacity. So Clinton, who as a candidate for president said she would ban Blackwater and other mercenary firms, is now presiding over what is going to be a radical expansion of the use of these companies and private soldiers in Iraq. The US embassy is the size of eighty football fields; you know, it’s the size of Vatican City. The Vatican has embassies around the world. Our embassy is the size of the Vatican, in Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Is it the largest US embassy in the world?

JEREMY SCAHILL: It’s the largest embassy of any country in the history of civilization. I mean, it’s a city unto itself. And it necessitates, Hillary Clinton believes, between 6,000 and 7,000 private security operatives. Just to put this in perspective, there are 4,000 special forces operators deployed in seventy-five countries around the world. That is the US special forces deployment under Obama. Hillary Clinton wants 7,000 of these guys just in Baghdad alone to protect the US embassy.

There are also—the State Department also has plans to remake some US bases into what they call “enduring presence posts,” EPPs. And so, you’ll have these outposts around the country that are essentially—what is essentially unfolding here is a downsized and rebranded occupation, Obama-style, that is going to necessitate a surge in private forces. The State Department is asking for MRAP vehicles, armored vehicles, for Black Hawk helicopters and for these paramilitary forces. So, yes, you can say that officially combat has ended, but in reality you’re continuing it through the back door by bringing in these paramilitary forces and classifying them as diplomatic security, which was Bush’s game from the very beginning.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the level of violence currently in Iraq?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I mean, you know, as you said in the intro to this segment, we heard President Obama say that violence is at an all-time low. The Iraqi government says it’s at an all-time high, since 2008 ’til now, July, 500 people being killed. The fact is that the situation in Iraq right now is as unstable as it’s ever been. They can’t form a government. You have Ayad Allawi, who is a CIA asset, who’s accused of murdering unarmed prisoners, who was a Baathist and one of Saddam’s top people early on in his political career. And then you have Nouri al-Maliki, who has been a pliant sort of US puppet. Those two, it’s the CIA guy versus the White House’s guy kind of fighting for control of Iraq right now.

The vast majority of people don’t have consistent access to potable water, to electricity, to gasoline, in one of the richest, oil-richest countries in the world. Oil production levels are below the Saddam-era level right now. And under Saddam’s Iraq, there were crippling sanctions led by the United States that were classified as UN sanctions. I mean, Iraq is a disaster right now. It’s an utter disaster and a humanitarian catastrophe. Millions of people are internally displaced or have fled to Syria or Jordan. Most Iraqis think it was better under Saddam Hussein. You know—

AMY GOODMAN: Although they didn’t like him.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, no, of course no. I mean, but that’s the point, is for Iraqi—anyone who was in Iraq under Saddam and saw people who had their tongues cut out for saying something, you know, negative, mildly negative, about Saddam Hussein, for Iraqis to say it was better under Saddam is a devastating commentary on the failure of the United States to do anything except make it worse in Iraq.

Haaretz reports.

Speaking with A-Nahar Wednesday, a Lebanese military spokesman admitted to IDF claims that the Lebanese fired first, adding however that it was their right “to defend Lebanon’s sovereignty.”

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