The role of UNIFIL in the events in question remains cloudy. Several photos show them side by side with RPG-toting Lebanese troops. IDF sources emphasized the close cooperation with them and wondered about the date of the photographs. On the other hand, if they were involved, then Israeli notification of activity may have served as important intelligence in Lebanese planning of the attack.
The possibility that Lebanese troops involved were trained by the U.S., and that the weapons they used were American, further complicates the picture.
Barry Rubin notes that the mainstream news media, in their typical style, as, for example, the New York Times, presented the event as a “he said, she said,” with the overall effect of reinforcing Lebanese claims. AFP, as if to bolster the Lebanese claims, published a photo of the tree-cutting equipment with the soldier over the other side of the fence and the following caption:
Israeli soldiers use a crane as they appear to cut a tree on the Lebanese side of the border in the southern village of Adaisseh, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010. Lebanese and Israeli troops exchanged fire on the border Tuesday in the most serious clashes since a fierce war four years ago, authorities said. A Lebanese officer spoke on condition of anonymity under military guidelines, said the clash occurred as Israeli troops tried to remove a tree from the Lebanese side of the border.(AP Photo/Lutfallah Daher)
Note the use of “appear,” which refers either to the cutting of a tree or “on the Lebanese side of the border,” an implication repeated by quoting a Lebanese officer claiming it was on their side of the border. This, of course, follows in the wake of the MSM’s almost total lack of interest in Israel’s revelations several weeks ago that Hezbollah has dug into civilian areas with their military and their arsenal.
A comparison of the IDF and UNIFIL statements, however, suggests that the Lebanese case of Israeli violations and Lebanese warning shots does not stand up to scrutiny. UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti mostly sounds evasively vague.
Speculation on why this occurred today runs the gamut. Some believe that it’s an effort to sabotage the direct negotiations to which the Arab League gave the green light last week and should be seen in the context of yesterday’s rocket attacks from Sinai. Others think it’s an effort by Hezbollah to distract attention from the latest revelations that they were involved in the Hariri assassination. Still others argue it’s related to the latest visit of the Saudis and the Syrians to Lebanon.
In any case, the incident is a reminder of the volatility of the region, how easily it is subject to sabotage, and how readily the MSM will play its role in enabling the most belligerent players.