UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council voiced concern on Tuesday about a cross-border skirmish that killed several Lebanese and an Israeli officer, and urged Israel and Lebanon to avoid a further escalation of violence.
The rare cross-border exchange of fire, which killed two Lebanese soldiers, a Lebanese journalist and a senior Israeli officer, was the most serious violence along the frontier since a 2006 war between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah militants.
“The members of the Security Council expressed their deep concern about today’s incident along the Blue Line which led to casualties on both sides,” Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, president of the Security Council this month, told reporters after a closed-door council meeting.
“The members of the Security Council called on all parties to practice utmost restraint, strictly abide by their obligations under resolution 1701, observe the cessation of hostilities and prevent any further escalation on the Blue Line,” he added.
Security Council resolution 1701 halted hostilities in the Israeli-Hezbollah war in 2006 and banned all unauthorized weapons between the Litani River and the Blue Line, the U.N.-monitored border between Israel and Lebanon.
The Lebanese and Israeli armies gave different descriptions of the events leading up to the skirmish, while the U.N. peacekeeping force stationed in southern Lebanon said it had yet to ascertain the circumstances leading to the bloodshed.
The Lebanese army said an Israeli patrol had crossed the technical line of the border even though U.N. peacekeepers in the area told it to stop.
But Israel, in a letter to Churkin, gave a different version of events. Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Daniel Carmon said the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) were carrying out “routine maintenance work” on a road 80 meters (yards) south of the Blue Line.
He added that the IDF had notified U.N. peacekeepers in southern Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, of this work “well in advance of its plans.”
The Lebanese army, Carmon told the Security Council president, opened fire at 12:22 local time (10:22 a.m. British time), killing Lieutenant Colonel Dov Harari and critically wounding a company commander.
“Israel holds the Government of Lebanon responsible for these attacks and all actions conducted from Lebanese territory,” Carmon said in the letter, a copy of which was sent to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; editing by Cynthia Osterman