Michael Totten

Fire on the Lebanon Border

Rockets and return fire along the Israeli border with Gaza are part of the scenery here as long as no one gets hurt, but the Lebanese border is usually quiet. It isn’t quiet today. I’m in Tel Aviv right now and don’t have anything first-hand to report, but here’s Ynet:

Fire in the north: A day after rockets were fired in Eilat, loud explosions were reported on the northern border as Israeli and Lebanese forces reportedly exchanged fire.

Northern residents have reportedly been ordered to enter secured rooms and bomb shelters. Many locals informed Ynet of loud explosions heard in the region.

Kiryat Shmona resident Ofir Shukrun told Ynet: “I heard loud explosions. We saw a cloud of smoke …now there are planes flying above us toward Lebanon.”

Another northern resident said he heard at least 15 explosions.

“Some sounded very close. I see smoke in Lebanese territory,” he said.

If this gets out of hand–and it might–I’ll go up there myself.

UPDATE: A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces says Lebanese army soldiers fired at an Israeli position that was on the other side of the security fence, but still inside Israel. The Israelis say they were conducting routine maintenance that had been coordinated in advance with the UN force in South Lebanon.

The fence isn’t the precise border marker, but it’s often thought of that way, and my guess is that the Lebanese thought the Israelis had crossed the border as well as the fence. It looks like a screw-up rather than the opening shots in the next war.

UPDATE: I just spoke with the Israel Defense Forces. The spokesperson’s office claims a sniper on the Lebanese side was the first to pull the trigger, and the Israelis responded with artillery and helicopter fire. After thirty minutes of quiet, a Lebanese army RPG squad fired at an Israeli tank. Four Lebanese and one Israeli were killed. Another Israeli is critically injured.

It might help if the Lebanese and Israeli armies had some way of communicating directly with one another, but they don’t because Lebanon is not allowed to have any contact of any kind for any reason with the State of Israel or its citizens. Even waving hello to an Israeli from the Lebanese side of the border is considered treason. So when there are misunderstandings, people get killed.

Some Lebanese army battalions are more loyal to Hezbollah than they are to their own government, and the IDF has launched an intelligence investigation to determine if the attack might have been planned in advance.