TEL AVIV (Jun. 15)
The Israel Defense Force and the United Nations troop command in southern Lebanon are trying to resolve a dispute that resulted in a tense confrontation between Israeli and Norwegian soldiers Monday night.
Maj. Gen. Yossi Peled, the IDF commander in the northern sector, and Gen. Gustav Eklund, commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, met Wednesday to seek a compromise. No announcement was made, but the atmosphere of their meeting was described as good.
The IDF and UNIFIL give conflicting accounts of the incident, which was only the latest in a long history of friction between the Israelis and the U.N. peacekeeping force.
The IDF accused UNIFIL of provocation when its Norwegian contingent disrupted roadwork inside the southern Lebanon security zone. The zone has been controlled by the IDF and its allied South Lebanon Army since Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 1984.
Army sources said IDF troops working with a tractor were improving a dirt track that led to an observation post. The post overlooks a region known as Fatahland because it was once a staging area for Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israel.
“The Norwegians deliberately placed their own vehicles across the track to disrupt the work,” the sources said. “They then erected a temporary post, enclosed with their own barbed wire and raised the UNIFIL flag in order to prove that the area in question was under their control.
“The IDF did not interfere and continued work on the track at a different place,” the Israeli source added.
But according to UNIFIL spokesman Timor Goksel, the Norwegians tried to prevent IDF troops from establishing a new outpost in the area that would infringe on the Norwegian zone and create tension.
Goksel charged that the IDF did not confine itself to improving a dirt track, but showed up Monday with engineers supported by troops and armored personnel carriers, and announced their intention to erect a new outpost.
The Norwegians occupied the site to prevent this violation, Goksel said. “The IDF troops surrounded them with barbed wire and put up an Israeli flag outside the wire. They said the area beyond the wire was Israeli territory and warned that anybody who moved outside the wire would be shot.”