ANALYSIS: Israel-Lebanon border clashes

An exchange of fire along the Israel-Lebanon border has killed five people, raising fears of a repeat of Israel’s 2006 campaign against Hezbollah.

Three Lebanese soldiers, one Israeli soldier, and a journalist were killed when Lebanese forces opened fire on IDF troops who were removing a tree from the Lebanese side of a border fence. According to various news sources, the removal was vetted with UNIFIL and the Lebanese authorities were aware of it before hand. According to Ha’aretz, the shootings were the result of a single Lebanese company commander who ordered snipers under him to fire on the Israeli post.

Regardless of who was where and which side fired first, incidents like these always have the potential to spiral out of control; especially in a region as volatile as the Middle East. It’s noteworthy that in the immediate aftermath of the incident the Israeli government did not put towns in the north on alert; a signal that they don’t want the situation to escalate. However, if details continue to emerge pointing to Lebanese culpability, it will be hard for the Israeli government to continue walking the line between getting their pound of flesh and not allowing the incident to explode into a regional crisis. It should also be noted that the Israeli government has already issued a very strongly-worded ultimatum, warning that any repeat of the incident would lead to a serious retaliation.

Given the general restraint being exercised by both sides, it’s unlikely that this incident will spiral into wider conflict. Just today, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was on the radio in Israeli stressing the fact that the attack was unplanned and should be treated as an isolated incident.

It should also be noted that UNIFIL has subsequently confirmed that the tree in question is, as the Israeli authorities have claimed, located on the Israeli side of the border.

Zachary Fillingham is a contributor to

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