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Lebanon and Israel clash near border; Syria Vows to Help Lebanon

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Optimus
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« on: August 03, 2010, 09:32:05 am »

Lebanon, Israel clash near border; at least 3 dead
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gCHfAWAy_fYeedrL-WswqiDnyzyQD9HC22C80
By BASSEM MROUE (AP) 23 minutes ago

KFAR KILA, Lebanon Lebanese and Israeli troops exchanged fire on the border Tuesday in the most serious clashes since a fierce war four years ago, and Lebanon said at least two of its soldiers and a journalist were killed in shelling.

The violence apparently erupted over a move by Israeli soldiers to cut down a tree along the border, a sign of the level of tensions at the frontier where Israel fought a war in 2006 with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

The U.N. urged "maximum restraint" and said it was working with both sides to restore calm, but witnesses in Lebanon reported intermittent Israeli shelling in the area hours after the clashes broke out.

A Lebanese army officer said the clash started when Israeli troops tried to remove a tree from the Lebanese side of the border.

An Associated Press photo shows an Israeli standing on a crane reaching over the fence that Israel erected to separate the two countries. The fence, however, does not match the border in all places, and the Israeli military said in a statement that the tree was in Israeli territory.

"It was over the fence but still within Israeli territory," the military spokesman's office said. He said the tree cutting was coordinated with the U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, UNIFIL.

The military said Lebanese forces opened fire on the troops, who returned fire, followed by an Israeli artillery barrage.

The Lebanese officer said one of the Israeli shells hit a house in the Lebanese border town of Adaisseh. One civilian was wounded in the shelling, he said. A security official also said a Lebanese journalist working for the daily Al-Akhbar newspaper, Assaf Abu Rahhal, was killed when an Israeli shell landed next to him in Adaisseh.

The Lebanese officials all spoke on condition of anonymity under military guidelines.

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman denounced the fighting and urged the army commander to "confront any Israeli aggression whatever the sacrifices."

The border has been relatively quiet since the summer 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war that left 1,200 Lebanese and about 160 Israelis dead. Tuesday's fighting did not appear to involve Hezbollah fighters.

After the 2006 war, the U.N. deployed 12,000-member peacekeeping force, known as UNIFIL, in the area.

Tensions along the border have risen in recent months. Israel claims Hezbollah guerrillas have significantly expanded and improved their arsenal of rockets since 2006. Among other things, Israeli officials have accused Syria and Iran of supplying Hezbollah with Scud missiles capable of hitting anywhere in Israel, a claim Hezbollah has refused to confirm or deny.

Adding to the friction, more than 70 people in Lebanon have been arrested since last year on suspicion of collaborating with Israel.

Suleiman said the shelling was a violation of the U.N. resolution that ended fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006, saying Israeli troops had crossed the U.N.-drawn Blue Line boundary separating the two countries and fired on a Lebanese army checkpoint in Adeisseh.

The Shiite Hezbollah guerrilla movement was not involved in Tuesday's clash. Hezbollah officials were not immediately available for comment. The group's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, was scheduled to address supporters via satellite at a huge rally south of Beirut later Tuesday marking Hezbollah's "divine victory" over Israel in the 2006 war.

UNIFIL confirmed that the Lebanese and Israeli armies exchanged fire and urged "maximum restraint."

"UNIFIL peacekeepers are in the area and are trying to ascertain the circumstances of the incident and any possible casualties," said UNIFIL spokesman Neeraj Singh. "Our immediate priority at this time is to restore calm in the area."
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« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2010, 09:33:57 am »

Assad vows to help Lebanon in face of 'criminal' Israeli aggression
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3929712,00.html

Following fierce exchanges of fire along Israel-Lebanon border, Syrian president tells Lebanese counterpart Damascus 'will stand by its sister Lebanon,' calls for UN intervention

Roee Nahmias
Published:    08.03.10, 17:11 / Israel News

Following Tuesday's heavy exchanges of fire between Israeli and Lebanese forces, Syrian President Bashar Assad  told his Lebanese counterpart Michel Suleiman that Syria stands by Lebanon and is willing to provide it with any necessary aid, al-Jazeera reported.

At least three Lebanese soldiers and a local journalist were killed in the border incident.

The official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) quoted Assad as saying that the "Israeli attack proves once again that Israel is constantly working to destabilize security in Lebanon and the region.

"Syria stresses that it is standing by its sister Lebanon in the face of the criminal Israeli aggression and calls on the UN to condemn and stop this aggression," the Syrian leader added.

Earlier, Suleiman vowed to "stand up to Israel's violation of Resolution 1701, whatever the sacrifices are."

Resolution 1701 brought an end to Israel's war with Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.

The Lebanese president denounced the "crossing of the 'blue line' (the internationally recognized border between Israel and Lebanon) by Israeli soldiers, the attack on property and the bombardment of the Lebanese army checkpoint in the Adaisseh area."
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« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2010, 09:42:16 am »

Assad: Chances of war 'increasing'
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/08/20108120421136940.html


Al Assad demanded the return of the Golan Heights as a precondition for peace with Israel [EPA]

Bashar al Assad, the Syrian president, has warned that "the possibility of war is increasing" in the region.

"The spectre of real peace in the region is disappearing, and the possibility of war is increasing," al Assad said in a statement marking Syrian Army Day on Sunday.

Israel and the Lebanese group Hezbollah have traded increasingly hostile rhetoric in recent weeks, raising fears that the two are headed for another round of war.

The two fought a month-long war in the summer of 2006 that left thousands dead, many of them Lebanese civilians.

Damascus has long provided logistical and military support to Hezbollah, but analysts are divided about whether Syria would become directly involved in a second war.

Al Assad also said that Syria would insist on the return of the Golan Heights as part of any peace deal with Israel, which occupied the heights in 1967.

Syrian officials have long called their return an essential precondition for peace talks.

"If anyone thinks that Syria might negotiate over its occupied land, then they are mistaken," al Assad said. "The liberation of the Golan is a deeply ingrained right. Peace requires restoring all the occupied soil."

'Uniquely dangerous'

The International Crisis Group (ICG) warned in a new report published on Monday that the situation in southern Lebanon is both "exceptionally quiet and uniquely dangerous".

The group warned that a second war would be more destructive for Lebanon, and that there is a growing chance it would involve Syria.

"The build-up in military forces and threats of an all-out war that would spare neither civilians nor civilian infrastructure, together with the worrisome prospect of its regionalisation, are effectively deterring all sides," the group wrote.

Many analysts believe Hezbollah fears that another confrontation would hurt its position in Lebanese society.

The group holds two seats in the Lebanese cabinet, and is increasingly positioning itself as a political force.

"A war resulting in widespread destruction would be hard to explain let alone justify to the Lebanese population as a whole, particularly if its most tangible outcome were Hezbollah's mere survival," the ICG report said.

The report also warned that an "underground war" between Israel and Hezbollah is already raising tensions in the region. The Lebanese government last month filed a complaint at the United Nations about an alleged Israeli spying ring in Lebanon.
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