Briefing by the IDF on the Incidents of 3 August 2010
Misgav Am, on the Lebanese Border, 4/8/2010
Hezbollah's Influence on the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF)
· Since mid-2007, there has been an increased in activity of Global Jihad in the area of Southern Lebanon.
· Recently, we have seen more incidence of violence by Hezbollah directed against UNIFIL's peacekeeping force.
· LAF brigades in the past were often majority Christian soldiers. ≈ this has changed. The LAF policy now dictates that different brigades will rotate responsibility for the area, and this includes brigades with varying ethno-religious composition.
· There are now a number of brigades of Shiite commanders in charge of forces in the border area. It is likely, given where these soldiers are from – that many of them have relatives who are Hezbollah activists or supporters.
· There has been increasing influence of Hezbollah upon LAF forces, and growth in this has been seen in recent years, as more violations of Res. 1701 have occurred by the Lebanese Armed Forces.
Provocation, Intimidation & Tension in Recent Months:
· Over the past three months, the Central and Eastern Brigades of the LAF have acted with increasing aggression towards Israeli forces stationed along the border. IDF forces have been threatened verbally, as well as with physical gestures by Lebanese troops, aimed at escalating tension in this already sensitive border area. Certain LAF companies have in fact made threats and sought to provoke the IDF through threatening gestures with heavy weaponry, including machine guns and RPGs.
· Israel has informed the UNIFIL Liaison of the LAF's demonstrations of aggression and attempts to enflame the situation, and has expressed the IDF's concerns that such behaviour could spark a deterioration into violent confrontation – something which the Israeli side wishes only to prevent.
· Nevertheless, such provocative behaviour has taken place so often that it has in fact become a regular dangerous routine. This behaviour, over a number of months, laid the framework for the tragically violent incident that took place on Tuesday.
Background to the Lebanese Forces' Provocation
· The LAF is the sovereign army of Lebanon, and receives its orders through a standard military central command structure, in coordination with the Lebanese government in Beirut.
· Tuesday's tragic events did not take place out of the blue. The increasingly risk-prone aggression and provocation by Lebanese forces over the past three months demonstrated clearly – both at the time and now with the benefit of hindsight – the intention for violence by the Lebanese forces.
· Tuesday began with plans by the IDF, coordinated in extreme detail with the UNIFIL Liaison Officer, to carry out a routine pruning of shrubbery near the fence which lies at a distance of 200-300 metres behind the "Blue Line" internationally recognised border between Israel and Lebanon.
· Such maintenance work is of absolute necessity for the safety and security of not just the Israeli military, but rather also the civilian residential areas and agricultural areas, which lie in, close proximity to the border area. It should be noted that Hezbollah forces using similar shrub growth as cover after illegally infiltrating Israeli territory facilitated the kidnapping of two IDF soldiers during the 2006 Lebanon War.
· Despite Israel's absolute right to maintain this border area, which lies in undisputed Israeli territory, the IDF coordinates all such activities with the UNIFIL Liaison Officer, and often makes changes to its own plans due to UNIFIL's concerns.
· In order to prevent any misunderstanding, prior to Tuesday's planned maintenance work the Israeli officer in charge personally patrolled the relevant area together with the UNIFIL Liaison Officer to demonstrate, in an explicit and specific manner, which trees and shrubbery the IDF intended to work on. All such plans were approved by UNIFIL before any activities by the IDF took place.
· On Tuesday morning, the planned commencement of the maintenance work at 08:30am was postponed by a number of hours as per a request by UNIFIL. When the later time already agreed upon had come, UNIFIL once again requested that the IDF delay such activities a number of additional minutes, and the IDF further complied.
· Subsequently, the IDF sent crane equipment down to the site, in order to demonstrate exactly what activities it planned to carry out.
· At this point, the Lebanese Armed Forces opened fire with snipers towards Israel. It must be noted, however, that such fire was not aimed at the soldiers located by the fence, but rather directly aimed at IDF officers who were standing in a separate area, on higher ground. These officers were wearing helmets and flack jackets. The officer who was killed by this fire was shot in the head, despite the armour he was wearing. This demonstrates the premeditated, planned and deliberate nature of the Lebanese attack.
· Following the Israeli forces' coming under unprovoked attack by the LAF, the IDF opened fire against the specific parts of LAF forces who had fired against Israel. The IDF made a clear distinction between such LAF forces, and any UNIFIL personnel or civilians that may have been in the area, thus compromising Israel's capabilities out of genuine concern to prevent any innocent casualties.
· The Lebanese Army cynically manipulated Israel's goodwill in coordinating all activities with UNIFIL observers, as well as Israel's ongoing desire to avoid any deterioration into violent confrontation with our neighbours.