Two Israeli Tanks Enter Disputed Area with Lebanon

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Two Israeli tanks briefly entered a disputed border area with Lebanon on Thursday after the alert was sounded over people apparently picking herbs in the volatile zone, a Lebanese army spokesman said.

"The Merkava tanks entered a zone claimed by Lebanon," the spokesman told Agence France Presse.

A security official in the area said the tank advanced four meters into the disputed area along the U.N.-drawn Blue Line before withdrawing.

Lebanese soldiers and troops from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) were at the site.

The alarm was sounded after several people were seen in the area and it was later determined they were picking thyme and thistle, the security official said.

The Blue Line is a U.N.-drawn border between the two countries established in 2000. Both Lebanon and Israel have challenged the accuracy of the Blue Line in several locations.

Thursday's incident took place near the village of Adaysseh, scene of a deadly border clash last August between Israel and Lebanon. That incident erupted after Israeli troops cut down several trees along the border, in an area claimed by Lebanon.

The clashes that erupted over the tree-cutting operation left two Lebanese soldiers and a journalist dead as well as a senior Israeli officer.

In Israel, an army spokesman downplayed Thursday's incident saying nothing out of the ordinary had taken place along the border.

"There is a normal, regular patrol of IDF (Israeli military) soldiers in the area but that is all, as far as we know," he said.

UNIFIL said it had been informed early in the morning by the Israeli army that two of its tanks had crossed the Israeli technical fence near Adaysseh.

"UNIFIL immediately dispatched patrols to the area to defuse tension and prevent any escalation," spokesman Neeraj Singh said in a statement.

"No violation of the Blue Line was observed."

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