Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 October 2019

Mysterious Israeli gas attack injures Lebanese soldiers

Unknown gas leaked from Israeli border camera when Lebanese soldiers tried to move it

Lebanese army soldiers patrol the streets of Beirut. Andrew Parsons / The National
Lebanese army soldiers patrol the streets of Beirut. Andrew Parsons / The National

The Lebanese army is investigating the poisoning of eight soldiers last week by an unknown gas from a newly installed Israeli security camera on the disputed border, a Lebanese source told The National.

“The army collected samples of the gas and is conducting an investigation into the incident,” the source said.

The soldiers had been trying to turn the camera away from its view of their country because they believed Israel had breached sovereignty by installing it on Lebanese territory.

Eight troops were briefly in hospital after suffering symptoms including vomiting. Israel then removed the camera.

The source said this was the first incident of its kind. It is common for Israel to install cameras to monitor Lebanese territory, but the cameras are usually on its side of the border.

Israeli also monitors Lebanon with surveillance drones that routinely breach Lebanese airspace.

Lebanon, which has no radar system to detect aircraft and no air defence system, can do little apart from complain to the UN.

In late August, a Lebanese soldier opened fire with an M16 assault rifle at three Israeli drones flying over South Lebanon a few days after an Israeli drone exploded in Hezbollah’s stronghold in South Beirut.

The border between Lebanon and Israel, which are still technically at war since the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, remains disputed in many areas.

In the absence of an official border, they respect the “Blue Line”, or line of withdrawal of the Israeli army in 2000, when it left South Lebanon after 22 years of occupation.

A spokesman for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, which patrols the border region alongside the Lebanese army to monitor the ceasefire, said an incident occurred involving a camera installed by Israel but did not confirm the gas leak.

The UN force received information on September 25 that the Israeli army had installed a camera at the northern entrance of an unused railway tunnel in Ras Al Naqoura, a Southern Lebanese town near the Blue Line.

“Unifil immediately activated its liaison channels with both the parties in an effort to mitigate tensions and resolve the issue in a co-ordinated manner,” UN force spokesman Andrea Tenenti told The National.

“The next morning, on September 26, due to Unifil’s urgent intervention, the Israeli Defence Force informed us that the camera would be removed soon. This was done later the same day."

Local daily Al Akhbar reported on Wednesday that “after numerous demands from the Lebanese army for the UN forces to remove the camera', soldiers tried to block its view.

“Pipes near the camera produced smoke of low toxicity that caused eight soldiers to choke and faint,” the paper said.

The incident lead to “tension on both sides of the border”, which lessened after Israel removed the camera.

Weapons’ experts doubted that the camera was booby-trapped but may have contained chemicals to keep away animals.

Updated: October 2, 2019 11:58 PM

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