My blogging has been slow lately because the Lebanese media—which I use as a source for many of my posts— has been going from bad to worse. Writing a single post takes me a long time, which I spend translating, comparing reports and trying to corroborate information. I was still working on a post on the Hariri tribunal when the story of clashes between the Lebanese army and the IDF broke out. The reports I read in the Lebanese media were confusing, but here they are anyway.
Al-Mustaqbal quoted security sources as saying that the Israelis tried to cross the blue line into Lebanese territory "to the region where the Israelis said they found four roadside bombs." Well, how could that region be Lebanese when those bombs were discovered on the Israeli side of the border? Al-Mustaqbal wasn't too concerned about accuracy—their main concern was to report Saad Hariri's statement that the clashes prove that the Lebanese army is capable to defend the country. Right!
According to the pro-Hizbullah rag al-Akhbar, the army asked UNIFIL to prevent the IDF from operating in a "disputed territory" until a joint committee verified the border. The Israelis refused so the Lebanese army warned it would open fire at the Israelis, which they did, al-Akhbar said, when the Israelis advanced tens of meters into Lebanese territory. The paper made no mention of the roadside bombs.
An-Nahar quoted Lebanese military sources as saying that the army fired in the direction of a bulldozer that "tried to advance towards Maroun al-Ras". The source told An-Nahar that following Israeli activity along the border, the army received orders from Michel Suleiman to respond to any Israeli attempt to infiltrate.
An-Nahar is the only paper that quoted Israeli military sources through its correspondent in Ramallah. Their correspondent said the Israelis were combing the area alongside the blue line where the roadside bombs were discovered. They reportedly sent the Lebanese army several messages assuring them of their intentions, but received objections from the Lebanse army and threats to open fire.
Most Israeli media is reporting that IDF troops were operating north of the border fence, but within Israeli territory.
Some will see this incident as a refreshing new side to the Lebanese army – but how many will get to know what really happened? If the army shot at the Israelis on Israeli territory, then I think it has to explain this new pre-emptive strategy towards Israel (and only Israel). If this was a purely defensive operation to stop a violation of Lebanese territory, then let's hear convincing details about the army's apparent new assignment to defend the Lebanese border-- the entire Lebanese border, and not just the southern front.
And how does the army explain the following (courtesy of al-Akhbar):
The Islamic resistance, which did not intervene in the clash awaiting a decision by the Lebanese army, raised the level of alertness among its ranks in the entire border area.