Recent border skirmish tops UN talks with Israeli Lebanese military officials

An exchange of fire between the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on 3 August reportedly led to the deaths of at least four people. The incident was triggered by Israel’s announcement of its intention to cut down a tree in the proximity of the Blue Line. The UN mission, known as UNIFIL, later confirmed that the tree was located south of the line on the Israeli side.At today’s tripartite meeting at the Ras Al Naqoura crossing, officials from the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) provided their comments regarding UNIFIL’s investigation.“It was a productive meeting with many significant issues on the agenda,” said UNIFIL Force Commander Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas.“It was important for me to listen for the first time to the comment and views of the parties on UNIFIL’s investigation report on the 3 August exchange of fire,” he said. Maj.-Gen. Asarta said that the mission will study and analyze the information, adding that “our intention is to finalize the investigation report as soon as possible.”Other topics discussed were how to speed up the visible marking of the so-called Blue Line separating the two countries, as well as the implementation of resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hizbollah.Both countries, he said, made clear that clearly demarcating the Blue Line would help to avoid misunderstandings and prevent incidents.“The discussions today reconfirmed that no party would like to see any escalation,” the official said, with Israel and Lebanon emphasizing “their continued commitment to maintain the cessation of hostilities and ensure that the exchange of fire that happened on 3 August remains and isolated incident.”On Monday, the Security Council extended UNIFIL’s mandate for another year, saying that its presence in Lebanon, as well as that of the LAF, is helping to promote stability in the south of the Middle Eastern country.In a unanimous resolution, the Council said it had determined that “the situation in Lebanon continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security” and had therefore decided to extend UNIFIL’s mandate until 31 August 2011.The Council strongly urged all parties concerned to respect the cessation of hostilities, to prevent any violation of the Blue Line, and to cooperate fully with the UN and UNIFIL.It also urged the Israeli Government to expedite the withdrawal of its army from northern Ghajar, a village that straddles the Blue Line, without further delay in coordination with UNIFIL, which, the Council said, has actively engaged Israel and Lebanon to facilitate the withdrawal.The Council also reaffirmed its call for the establishment, between the Blue Line and the Litani River, of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons except those of the Lebanese Government and UNIFIL.It strongly deplored the recent incidents involving UN peacekeepers, emphasized the importance of not impairing the ability of the mission to fulfil its mandate, and called on all parties to abide by their obligation to respect the safety of UNIFIL and other UN personnel. 2 September 2010The investigation by the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Lebanon was the focus of today’s talks with Israeli and Lebanese senior military officials today.

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