JERUSALEM — The United Nations peacekeeping force in South Lebanon, Unifil, said on Wednesday it had concluded that Israeli forces were cutting trees that lay within their own territory before a lethal exchange of fire with Lebanese Army troops on Tuesday, largely vindicating Israel’s account of how the fighting started.
A Lebanese Army spokesman had said on Tuesday that the skirmishes started after Israeli soldiers crossed into Lebanese territory to cut down a tree. Israel said that its forces were clearing brush, as part of routine maintenance work, in a gap between the so-called Blue Line, the internationally recognized border, and its security fence, and that it had coordinated its actions in advance with Unifil.
Lebanon said at least four Lebanese were killed, while Israel reported that a battalion commander was killed and a platoon commander was critically wounded. The clash was the fiercest in the area since Israel’s monthlong war against the Lebanese militia Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.