|DEBKAfile Exclusive: French tanks obstruct Israeli tanks over suspected Hizballah robbery of Israeli weapons store
October 3, 2006, 10:51 AM (GMT+02:00)
The south Lebanese village of Merwahin was the stage Thursday, Sept 28 of the first near-showdown between UN and Israeli forces. DEBKAfile publishes here the first photo of an encounter between 4 French Leclerc and at least 5 Israeli Merkava tanks in that Lebanese village.
Despite the photographic evidence, Israel officially denies the incident. DEBKAfile reports the French force sought to prevent the Israeli unit from combing through the Hizballah-dominated village in search of the raiders who crossed into Israel and broke into the IDF’s Kibbutz Shomera arms store last week. They made off with a large quantity of side-arms, anti-tank weapons, LAU rockets and hundreds of combat grenades, which the Israeli force was determined to recover.
American and German correspondents who witnessed the incident report that the two tank units held menacing positions 50 meters apart for about half an hour, after which the French tanks broke off contact and turned tail. The French commander claims the Israel tanks retreated first. DEBKAfile’s military sources note that this was the second incidence of French backing for Hizballah. On Sept 22, French fighter jets were seen cruising in Beirut’s skies above the podium of Hassan Nasrallah’s “victory speech.” He boasted then that he was not afraid to address the masses directly instead of through armored glass.
ebanon: UNIFIL tanks block IDF force
French UNIFIL troops prevent IDF tanks, bulldozer from advancing deeper into Lebanese territory; reports say Israeli soldiers confiscated identity cards of photographers at the scene, claiming they may give pictures to Hizbullah
Published: 09.28.06, 18:41
An IDF force, including tanks, a bulldozer and a number of vehicles was blocked on Thursday by French UNIFIL troops at the outskirts of the south Lebanese village of Marwahin, near the border with Israel.
According to reports, the IDF force asked to advance deeper into Lebanese territory, but was stopped about 500 meters from the road leading to the village by four UNIFIL tanks manned by French soldiers as two Israeli Merkava tanks operated nearby on Lebanese soil, setting up checkpoints.
Incident at village of Marwahin (Photo: AFP)
AFP reported that Israeli soldiers confiscated the identity cards of photographers at the scene, claiming they may give pictures of the Israeli military to Hizbullah members.
IDF sources said they are looking into the incident.
More than 90 percent of the territory previously controlled by the IDF in south Lebanon has been transferred to UNIFIL, but a few hundred soldiers still remain in the area.
Earlier in the week IDF and UNIFIL representatives discussed the issue of the village of Rajar, which is partly controlled by Israel and partly on the Lebanese side; the parties have yet to agree on ways to transfer information between UNIFIL and the IDF and on regulations for opening fire.
More than 15,000 UN and Lebanese troops are currently deployed in the southern region, with thousands more expected to arrive in the coming days.
Contrary to previous estimations, the negotiations for the withdrawal of the last IDF soldiers from Lebanon have not been completed.
"We are postponing the transfer of territories until an agreement is reached," Halutz said recently. "We cannot end this within a day or two."
The army chief made it clear that the IDF had issued a warning to the Lebanese army that any use of military equipment in the area, including intelligence means, would constitute a violation of the ceasefire resolution.
"We conveyed a message that we will operate against any conduct suspected to be a terrorist activity," he said.