BEIRUT: U.N. envoy to Lebanon warned that incidents such as Monday’s exchange of fire on the Lebanon-Israel border could quickly turn into a war, as Prime Minister Najib Mikati affirmed Lebanon’s commitment to defend its sovereignty by all legitimate means.
“This was a very disturbing incident ... you can go from an incident like this to war within a few hours. That is the reality,” U.N. Special Coordinator Michel Williams told reporters after meeting with Prime Minister Najib Mikati Tuesday.
"The good thing is that nobody was injured. The bad news is that we cannot afford any incidents like this," he added.
The Lebanese Army engaged in a brief confrontation with Israeli soldiers shortly after dawn Monday when an Israeli army convoy crossed the Blue Line at Wazzani into Lebanon. The fight did not lead to any casualties.
According to a statement released by the Directorate General of the Army, Israeli soldiers walked 70 meters into Lebanese territories prompting the Lebanese Army to confront the soldiers. An exchange of fire followed, until the Israeli soldiers withdrew.
Williams said that he would be meeting with the Deputy Force Commander of United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon Gen. Santi Bonfanti to find out his conclusions on the events and how UNIFIL can prevent any further occurrences.
Mikati also voiced his concern over continuing Israeli violations of Lebanon's sovereignty, saying that the U.N. should work to halt these violations and to fully implement U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.
“Lebanon is determined to defend its rights and preserve its sovereignty via all legitimate means. The international community should deter Israel from violating Lebanese sovereignty and violating Lebanon's legitimate rights,” Mikati said after his meeting with Williams.
The two also discussed the recent roadside bomb attack on UNIFIL when six French soldiers were wounded on July 26 after the bomb targeted their four-vehicle convoy in Sidon, two months after a bomb attack on an Italian UNIFIL convoy south of Sidon wounded six peacekeepers.
“[The incident] has generated very considerable concerns in France and in all troop contributing countries. I believe it is imperative that the Lebanese government take concrete and firm action on this,” Williams said.
He also urged the government to search for and arrest the culprits of both attacks, adding that the movement of UNIFIL convoys needs to be closely coordinated with the Lebanese Army and the Internal Security Forces to prevent any further attacks of this nature.
The meeting also touched upon Lebanon’s maritime border dispute with Israel and Mikati informed Williams that his government is finalizing a draft law delineating maritime borders which uphold Lebanon's rights and its obligations and that the U.N. will be notified of it once it is issued.