TEL AVIV – The Israel Defense Forces says it believes allies of the Hezbollah terrorist organization today started a series of clashes along Israel’s northern border, resulting in the deaths of at least three Lebanese soldiers and a Lebanese journalist.
Sources in the IDF told WND they fear Hezbollah may be trying to create a fight with Israel to divert attention from a potentially damaging United Nations probe into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, for which Syria and Hezbollah have been widely blamed.
The Lebanese army today confirmed three of its troops were killed when Israeli forces fired on a vehicle in which they were traveling, setting it on fire. Another soldier was wounded. The Lebanese al-Nahar newspaper reported a journalist from the al-Akhbar newspaper was killed during the clash.
Lebanese reports claim the conflict began when an IDF patrol attempted to uproot a tree on the Lebanese side of the border early today. Other reports said the Israeli soldiers were attempting to plant cameras in Lebanon.
The presence of Israeli troops resulted in the Lebanese army opening fire, with Israel responding by shelling the Lebanese side of the border. Also, a Katyusha rocket reportedly was fired into a northern Israeli civilian population center. Residents in the north report hearing a loud explosion. They were then warned by a siren to enter their bomb shelters.
Since Israel’s 2006 war in Lebanon, the IDF has conducted routine patrols up to the international border, which in some places is disputed territory.
IDF officials told WND Israeli soldiers coordinate their routine patrols with the international forces stationed at the border and that today’s patrol was no different. Also, the officials said the IDF was performing necessary maintenance work on the Israeli side of the fence.
Sources in the IDF said today’s clashes appear to have been a coordinated assault, especially in light of a Katyusha rocket they said was ready on a truck in Lebanon for firing, making it look like a staged provocation.
The IDF sources said many of the Lebanese forces at the border, particularly the Division 9 Lebanese Army border patrol, consist of Shiite Muslims. The sources believe that division is loyal to Hezbollah, a Shiite organization.
Lebanon has been ablaze in recent weeks with reports that a U.N. probe into the Hariri assassination is set to blame some leaders of Hezbollah. Some reports have claimed the international body will hand out arrest warrants to Hezbollah leaders.
Two weeks ago, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said he expected members of his party to be charged by the U.N. court probing the Hariri murder.
“I was personally informed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri before his visit to Washington (in May) that the tribunal will accuse some undisciplined members” of Hezbollah, Nasrallah said in a press conference via video link.
“That’s where things seem to be heading,” he said, adding that the impending decision by the U.N.-backed court had pushed Lebanon into a “very sensitive phase.”