Lebanese Army seen observing northern border during Liberman visit

Lebanese Army seen observing northern border during Liberman visit

Local residents photograph two men taking pictures of Israeli territory from newly built lookouts; defense minister says border ‘in good hands’

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

A watchtower apparently built by the Lebanese army running along the border with Israel (screen capture: Ynet)
A watchtower apparently built by the Lebanese army running along the border with Israel (screen capture: Ynet)

Two men were were seen Tuesday taking photographs of the northern Israeli border from a Lebanese Army lookout during a visit to the area by newly appointed Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

A series of lookout posts that have popped up along the Lebanon side of the border with Israel in recent weeks have raised suspicions of local Israeli residents, who have taken it upon themselves to monitor activity at the sites.

While Liberman met with senior IDF officers on the northern border to assess the Northern Command’s preparedness for threats from Lebanon and Syria, the two men were photographed at one of the Lebanese lookouts spying on the Israeli side.

In a photograph released by Channel 10 news, one man can be seen taking photos with a long-range camera lens while the other, holding an automatic weapon, stands guard.

The army said that the watchtowers, which have appeared in the past month over the border between Kibbutz Rosh Hanikrah and Moshav Zarit, belong to the Lebanese Army and do not pose a direct threat to the security of the border communities.

The towers are in an area classified as a demilitarized zone, according to UN Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War, meaning that they can be used for observation, but weapons cannot be placed there.

While the Lebanese Army is not considered a hostile adversary they have been a number of occasions when rogue soldiers have opened fire on Israeli troops.

During his visit, the newly installed Liberman spoke with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot; the head of the Northern Command, Aviv Kochavi; Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman; and Maj. Gen. Yossi Bachar.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman tours Israel's northern border on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman tours Israel’s northern border on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

“I heard reviews of the area, which is an area that is always sensitive, and I can say that our northern border is in good and safe hands,” Liberman said.

“We don’t have any other plans other than maintaining the quiet, and I hope that everyone understands that well, including our neighbors. But in any case, I don’t recommend that anyone test us,” he added.

Leader of the nationalist Yisrael Beytenu party, Liberman was sworn in as defense minister last Monday after the cabinet unanimously approved the coalition-expanding agreement that brought his party into the Likud-led coalition. A Knesset vote shortly after approved his appointment.

In a possible effort to assuage concerns over previous aggressive rhetoric, since taking office Liberman has declared that Israeli national unity is more important than territory, has vowed to prevent unnecessary future conflicts and end ongoing “wars of attrition.”

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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