ISRAEL: IDF takes new approach to Lebanese army, calls it 'treacherous'
Last week's incident that killed an Israeli officer, two Lebanese soldiers and a Lebanese journalist after Lebanese forces fired across the border at Israeli troops has prompted a change in Israeli policy.
Until now, the two militaries maintained fair working relations, despite an increase in Lebanese aggressiveness noted recently. But last week's incident was the last straw for the IDF, now seeing its northern counterpart in a new light. From now on, reported Ynetnews Tuesday, new operational procedures are in place and soldiers will respond more forcefully to any incident.
Top brass in UNIFIL, the U.N. force in Lebanon's south, and the Lebanese Armed Forces have been informed that Israel will now "respond harshly to all aggressive moves," according to Hanan Greenberg's report. This new approach -- describing the Lebanese army as "treacherous" -- would be in place until the Lebanese soldiers aren't perceived as a threat to Israeli ones.
Israel has reservations about generous U.S. military support of the Lebanese army, fearing upgraded equipment and know-how will make its way to Hezbollah. $100 million in U.S. military aid to Lebanon has been suspended, drawing Lebanese protests that this "weakened the American-backed efforts to strengthen the army," according to AP. Iran promptly volunteered to help instead, prompting U.S. criticism.
Meanwhile, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah's allegations that Israel was behind the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri were dismissed in Israel. The fantastic evidence he presented Monday evening in his fourth address in two weeks was "a salad of many vegetables," said radio reporter Eran Singer, referring to the attempt to link old Israeli drone aircraft footage surrounding a 1997 incident to the 2005 assassination as proof of Israel's responsibility.
While Israelis did learn from this that Hezbollah is able to intercept non-encrypted aerial footage (it's encrypted now), the connection to the assassination -- investigated by the international tribunal that has Hezbollah worried -- seemed a fantastic stretch, though a potentially dangerous one. "It's not a smoking gun but it might shoot us all," was the Hebrew title of this (English) analysis by Avi Issacharoff.
-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem.
Above: AP report on Aug. 3 incident. Via Youtube.