Israeli tank faces Lebanese soldiers, UNIFIL after crossing fence

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One image from the scene showed a Lebanese soldier pointing an RPG launcher towards the tank.

Israeli Merkava tank in close proximity of Lebanese soldiers and UNIFIL forces, June 2, 2020 (photo credit: SCREENSHOT/ AL MANAR)

Israeli Merkava tank in close proximity of Lebanese soldiers and UNIFIL forces, June 2, 2020

(photo credit: SCREENSHOT/ AL MANAR)

Photographs captured by Lebanese media portrayed an IDF Merkava tank facing Lebanese soldiers and United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) peacekeeping forces near the Blue Line on Tuesday, with one picture showing a Lebanese soldier pointing an RPG at the tank. The tank was in the area as part of a patrol previously coordinated with UNIFIL.

Lebanese media claimed that this is the first time an Israeli tank has crossed the technical fence since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when Israel lost 121 soldiers and 43 civilians. The patrol, made up of two tanks and a number of infantry forces, was coordinated with UNIFIL.

UNIFIL stated that the tank had not crossed the Blue Line and therefore had not violated UN Security Council Resolution 1701, according to Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar TV. Lebanese MTV news also reported that the tank had not crossed the Blue Line, but that the incident had led to tension and a high alert in the area.

One image from the scene showed a Lebanese soldier pointing an RPG launcher towards the tank.

— علي شعيب (@alishoeib1970) June 2, 2020

The incident occurred near the Lebanese town of Meiss El Jabal, located about five miles (eight kilometers) south of the Israeli kibbutz of Misgav Am and the Lebanese village of Adaisseh. In 2010, clashes broke out near Adaisseh after the Lebanese Army claimed that IDF soldiers had crossed the border with Lebanon. One soldier was killed and another wounded, and two Lebanese soldiers were killed and five others were wounded.

The IDF claimed that it had only crossed over a fence in Israeli territory in the 2010 incident as part of routine maintenance work coordinated with UNIFIL and had not crossed the Blue Line. UNIFIL confirmed their position, although Lebanese officials claimed that the area was considered Lebanese territory.

The Al-Manar reporter made similar claims about the incident on Tuesday.

The technical fence is located within Israeli territory, but Lebanon lays claim to several points along the fence.

The incident came after a series of infiltrations and attempted infiltrations by shepherds and migrant workers into Israeli territory from Lebanon.

A Syrian national working as a shepherd in Lebanon who was shot by IDF soldiers after he infiltrated over the Lebanese border into Israel was transferred to the Red Cross in Lebanon through the Rosh Hanikra border crossing on Tuesday, according to an IDF statement.

The suspect had been treated in Israel and was released after an investigation. “The IDF views every attempt to violate Israeli sovereignty severely,” said the army statement.

While Lebanese media said that the shepherd, Mohammed Noureddine Abdul Azim, had been shot while in Lebanon as his animals were grazing nearby, the IDF said he crossed some 100 meters into Israel near Mount Dov, also known as Sheeba Farms.

According to Channel 12 news, troops from the IDF’s Golani Brigade who were deployed to the area identified Azim crossing the border and fired warning shots in the air to stop him. Instead of returning to Lebanon, Azim began to run and hid between rocks. A soldier then saw him put his hand into his pocket and fearing he was drawing weapon, fired upon him.

Just days before the incident on Mount Dov, a senior IDF officer stationed in the area told The Jerusalem Post that many shepherds in the area are known to collect intelligence on troop movement.

The officer said that the IDF has identified several locations along the Golan Heights where they know Hezbollah collects intelligence on Israel and warned that “whoever crosses the demilitarized zone into Israel is considered a threat and the IDF will respond accordingly.”

On Friday, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that the IDF fired at a shepherd in Jabal Al-Shahl, north of Mount Hermon. The shepherd was not injured in the incident.

Avichay Adraee, the IDF Arabic-language spokesman, posted a video on Twitter on Monday, pointing out the increase in the number of infiltration attempts along the Israel-Lebanon border, adding that the IDF had intensified its operations along the border in response.

“We expect the Lebanese government and the international forces operating in southern Lebanon to impose their control and prevent these attempts,” tweeted Adraee.

Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz visited northern Israel along with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the Head of the Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Amir Baram, the Commander of the 210th Division Brig.-Gen. Amit Fisher and other senior officers.

It was Gantz’s first visit to the north as Defense Minister and during the visit he heard about the security challenges facing Israel’s north, including Iranian presence in Syria and developments in Lebanon.

He also met with heads of communities along the Lebanese-Israeli border and discussed the lack of shelters available to communities in the north.

The visit comes several days after he made a similar visited to Israel’s south where he heard about the threats posed by Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip.

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