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UNIFIL backs Israel on border skirmish

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NAQOURA, Lebanon, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- A U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon confirmed Israeli troops were operating on their side of the border during a deadly skirmish Tuesday, Israeli forces said.

Lebanese and Israeli forces traded fire along the border Tuesday, leaving at least four people, including an Israeli lieutenant colonel, dead. Lebanese forces said Israeli troops wandered too far into their territory to prune trees along border checkpoints.

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A team from the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon announced Wednesday it was sending a team to the U.N.-demarcated Blue Line to determine where along the border the incident occurred.

UNIFIL officials during trilateral meetings with Lebanese and Israeli officials said the Israelis were operating on their side of the Blue Line.

"UNIFIL found that the trees pruned by the (Israeli military) are located south of the Blue Line and are therefore located inside Israeli territory," the Israeli military quoted UNIFIL spokesman Narsh Bahat as saying.

Washington, which has supplied military aid to both parties to the conflict, said it was interested in reducing the tensions in the region, but ultimately blamed Lebanon for the skirmish.

"The firing by Lebanese armed forces was wholly unjustified and unwarranted," said U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.

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Lebanon has complained recently of Israeli military activity along the shared border. Lebanon's National News Agency reported Thursday that Israeli warplanes were conducted "mock raids" along the border regions.

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