Assad, Nasrallah Defend Lebanese Army

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JERUSALEM, Israel - The facts emerging from yesterday's deadly clashes on the northern border brought an admission from the Lebanese Army that they had opened fired on the Israeli border patrol, initiating the incident.

It also became clear they weren't "responding" to Israeli aggression; in fact, they had invited journalists and photographers to record the fire fight. They had also positioned snipers who succeeded in killing one senior IDF officer and critically wound another.

"If this incident was not planned in advance, why did field commanders in the Lebanese army bother to dispatch journalists to the area and ensure that cameras were present at the site," one Israel Defense Forces officer asked.

Two of the journalists were affiliated with Hezbollah media outlets. Assaf Abu Rahal worked for the al-Akhbar newspaper out of Beirut, and Ali Shuaib for the Hezbollah's al-Manar satellite television network. Rahal was killed in the crossfire and Shuaib wounded.

Assad, Nasrallah

Syrian President Bashar Assad pledged to stand by Lebanon against Israeli "aggression."

"The Israeli attack proves once again that Israel is constantly working to destabilize security in Lebanon and the region," Assad told SANA, Syria's state-controlled news agency.

"Syria stresses that it is standing by its sister Lebanon in the face of the criminal Israeli aggression and calls on the U.N. to condemn and stop this aggression," Bashar said.

Hezbollah spiritual leader and general secretary Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said his "opposition" group was "on alert" and "ready to help the military."

"Officers and soldiers in the Lebanese military are our brothers and loved ones. How could it be that the opposition will sit with its arms crossed from now on as the military is bombed? I will say honestly, we will not sit with arms crossed...the Israeli hand outstretched to strike the Lebanese military will be cut off by the opposition," Nasrallah said.

Coordinated with UNIFIL

UNIFIL, the United Nations peacekeeping force deployed along Lebanon's southern border, said the IDF coordinated the routine pruning work with the Lebanese Army through the U.N. forces.

"I can confirm that the IDF had coordinated the pruning work along the border with the Lebanese Army through UNIFIL," Hungarian diplomat Milos Strugar, who serves as political adviser to the UNIFIL commander, told Army Radio on Wednesday morning.

Struger said UNIFIL troops "face many complaints regarding provocations and arousals by the Lebanese Army against IDF soldiers on a daily basis," but that Tuesday's incident was "the most serious" since 2006. 

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman issued a statement immediately following the ambush promising "to stand up to Israel's violation of [U.N.] Resolution 1701, whatever the sacrifices are."

Resolution 1701 stipulated the conditions of the U.N.-brokered ceasefire that ended the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006.

A cross-border attack by Hezbollah terrorists on an IDF patrol, in which four soldiers were killed and two kidnapped, sparked the 34-day war. 

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YNet news contributed to this report

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