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Rioters Hurl Stones at IDF During Standoff on Tense Lebanon Border

Lebanese men attempt to damage fence, prompting Israeli soldiers to launch tear gas in response; armed Lebanese Army troops seen guarding area

The Israeli military clashed with Lebanese nationals along the northern border on Friday afternoon, firing tear gas after several men hurled stones and attempted to damage Israel’s security barrier, the Israel Defense Forces said.

Live television footage aired by the Hezbollah mouthpiece Al-Mayadeen showed Lebanese Army soldiers standing near a crowd throwing stones and rushing at the border, as IDF troops launched tear gas in response.

Israel and Lebanon do not have a formal border due to territorial disputes; however, they largely abide by the United Nations-recognized Blue Line between the two countries.

Armed Lebanese soldiers, some with RPGs, were seen standing guard at the scene in the contested Mount Dov region, also known as the Shebaa Farms — claimed by Israel, Lebanon and Syria.

Other images showed members of a UN peacekeeping force separating Israeli soldiers from the Lebanese following the incident.

The Israeli military said in a statement that Lebanese suspects “tried to vandalize the [security] barrier and threw stones at the IDF forces operating in the area.”

A Lebanese protester throws stones at Israeli troops on the border, Friday, June 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohammad Zaatari)

“The forces responded with riot dispersal means. The IDF will not allow any attempt to violate the sovereignty of the State of Israel,” the military added.

There were no Lebanese injuries reported.

There have been numerous standoffs between the IDF and the Lebanese Army in recent years, after the latter complained that Israeli engineering work crossed over a demarcation line between the countries.

A Lebanese soldier points his rocket-propelled-grenade toward an Israeli Merkava tank across the border, Friday, June 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohammad Zaatari)

The Blue Line is marked with blue barrels along the border and is several meters from the Israeli fence in some areas. The engineering work typically takes place to the north of Israel’s fence, but within Israeli territory.

Generally, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has stepped in and stopped the works after complaints by the Lebanese Army. There have been several cases of clashes amid such standoffs in recent months.

Andrea Tenenti, a spokesman for UNIFIL, said peacekeepers are on the ground working to decrease tension in the area.

“We have urged the parties to utilize our coordination mechanisms effectively to prevent misunderstandings, violations, and contribute to the preservation of stability in the area,” Tenenti said. He added that UNIFIL leadership is in contact with the parties, seeking a solution.

“We call upon both sides to exercise restraint and avoid actions along the blue line that may escalate tensions,” Tenenti told The Associated Press.

UNIFIL has been in Lebanon since 1978. Composed of nearly 10,000 soldiers, it is deployed in the south of the country — a stronghold of Hezbollah — to maintain a barrier with Israel, as the two countries technically remain at war.

A Lebanese protester sets a Lebanese flag near an Israeli Merkava tank along the border on Friday, June 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohammad Zaatari)

The terror group has long been the IDF’s most significant adversary on Israel’s borders, with an estimated arsenal of nearly 150,000 rockets and missiles that can reach anywhere in Israel.

Work on a new border wall with Lebanon began in 2018 to replace Israel’s aging fence in the area. By 2020, the military and Defense Ministry Borders and Security Fence Directorate had completed only 15 kilometers (9 miles) of concrete walling along the approximately 130-kilometer (80-mile) border in order to protect the 22 adjacent Israeli villages.

Eventually, the plan is to construct a barrier along the entire border — a project that would cost NIS 1.7 billion ($470 million).

Source : Times Of Israel