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French Version

Lebanese Army, UNIFIL probe border shooting

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), in association with the Lebanese Army, has launched an investigation into Sunday's incident in the divided town of Ghajar, the National News Agency (NNA) said on Tuesday.

One Lebanese man was killed and another wounded Sunday after Israeli forces opened fire on them near the divided border village of Ghajar, Lebanese security officials said.

The NNA reported that four UNIFIL officers visited the area where the shooting took place and extracted samples and took pictures. The Lebanese Army was meanwhile patrolling the western outskirts of Ghajar. UNIFIL's Spanish contingent has performed extensive patrols in the Lebanese portion of Ghajar on Tuesday as Israeli troops were seen closely watching the border.

Ghajar, at the foot of Mount Hermon which straddles the border between Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, has been a source of continuous dispute between Israel and Lebanon.

Its residents are mostly Alawites, the majority of whom have obtained Israeli citizenship even though they consider themselves to be Syrian.

According to a UN-drawn "Blue Line" marking the border between Israel and Lebanon following the May 2000 withdrawal of Israeli troops, two-thirds of the village is on Lebanese soil.

The other third is under Israeli control as part of the Golan which the Jewish state seized from Syria in 1967.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said on Monday that Beirut would lodge a complaint with the United Nations into the incident.

His office said Siniora had "asked the Lebanese delegation to the United Nations to register a complaint against Israel with the Security Council, following the aggression against Lebanese territory."

UNIFIL spokeswoman Yasmina Bouzianne had said immediately after the incident that the force would be investigating.

A Lebanese military spokesman said the two men were unarmed and on the Lebanese side of the border when the shooting took place.

Another official said the two were suspected drug traffickers.

An Israeli Army spokesman said, however, that an Israeli patrol had come under fire from the Lebanese side of Ghajar.

Hizbullah MP Hussein Hajj Hassan warned on Monday of retaliation for the deadly shooting by Israeli forces of a man across the border.

The Israeli military said it was responding to fire apparently from drug smugglers on the Lebanese side. Such shootings have been rare since the 2006 summer war.

"This matter definitely will not pass in a way that the people will remain silent," Hajj Hassan said on LBC television Monday. "It is the right of the resistance to respond one day by any means."

Haj Hassan decried the lack of international criticism of the Israeli firing, even though the circumstances surrounding the incident remained unclear. He said if the situation had been reversed, with an Israeli killed by fire from Lebanon, "you wouldn't imagine how many condemnations would have been issued ... as if a citizen on our side has no value."

Hajj Hassan did not threaten immediate retaliation.

Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned in a recent speech that the resistance group's patience was wearing thin with repeated Israeli violations of Lebanese territory.

Beirut 06-02-2008
The Daily Star

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