IDF border roadwork raises tensions with Lebanon

UNIFIL commander sets up urgent meeting with IDF and LAF representatives after Lebanese soldiers claim Israelis crossed border.

Lebanese soldier peers at Israel along border 370 (photo credit: Ali Hashisho/Reuters)
Lebanese soldier peers at Israel along border 370
(photo credit: Ali Hashisho/Reuters)
IDF work along the border with Lebanon has raised tensions with Beirut, prompting the commander of UNIFIL to convene an urgent meeting of officers from both countries on Wednesday.
Tensions mounted earlier this week when IDF engineering teams began work on the border road along Mount Dov, also known as the Shaba Farms, a piece of land that Israel controls.
UNIFIL peacekeepers were scrambled to the border to prevent violence between the IDF and soldiers from the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) who also arrived at the scene and claimed that the Israeli soldiers had crossed the border.
Due to the incident, UNIFIL commander Maj.-Gen. Paolo Serra decided to convene an urgent tripartite meeting with IDF and LAF representatives on Wednesday at the peacekeeping force’s base at the Nakoura Crossing.
The size of the Shaba farms and the sovereignty over the land has been at the heart of disagreements between Israel, Lebanon, Syria and the United Nations for years.
Hezbollah claims that the land belongs to Lebanon, while Israel claims that it is actually Syrian and that it will withdraw from the land in the framework of a comprehensive peace treaty with Damascus.
The IDF engineering teams began the work on the border several days ago in an effort to expand the security patrol road on the Israeli side. In the future, the IDF plans to replace the current border fence along the mountain with a more sophisticated barrier as part of general renovations it is doing along the Lebanon border.
North of Metulla, for example, the IDF began Monday to construct a 2 km. concrete wall to prevent clashes between military forces on both sides of the border.
Israel’s border with Lebanon has been relatively quiet in the nearly six years that have passed since the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Two years ago, however, Lt.-Col. Dov Harari, a reserve battalion commander, was shot dead by an LAF sniper. Harari was overseeing troops who were trimming trees along the border to improve visibility for surveillance.
Serra said that the purpose of the meeting on Wednesday would be to lower tensions and prevent violence.
“The focus of this meeting will be on one issue – IDF patrol road construction works in the area of Shaba farms and the need to preserve stability in this area,” he said.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office said that the military was doing work to improve the infrastructure on Mount Dov and was in contact with UNIFIL.