January 21, 2014 12:34 AM By Mohammed Zaatari
The Daily Star
ADAISSEH, Lebanon: Calm was restored to the border Monday following a tense standoff between the Lebanese and Israeli armies, as the latter removed an apparent spy device from a disputed area. An Israeli technical specialist unit, accompanied by some 40 soldiers, entered the disputed border territory near the southern village of Adaisseh at around 11 a.m. Monday to dismantle a device found under an olive tree the day before.
According to an Army statement Sunday, an Indonesian UNIFIL contingent found a suspicious-looking object composed of two parts bearing Hebrew script that had been placed under an olive tree on the outskirts of Adaisseh, on the Lebanese side of the technical fence. The tree was about 150 meters from the gate in the barrier near Maskaf Aam, the Israeli settlement overlooking Adaisseh.
“The suspicious object was hidden, and we are working with UNIFIL to determine whether it is beyond the Blue Line,” a security source told The Daily Star. “Later, Army engineers discovered the device was a type of computer with Hebrew writings on it.”
Following UNIFIL’s discovery, the Lebanese Army patrol deployed immediately in the area and readied for combat as it investigated how the devices had come to be planted under the tree.
At the same time, Spanish and Indonesian UNIFIL soldiers arrived and observed the proceedings, maintaining contact with both sides in order to defuse the situation while waiting to determine the status of the area where the device was found and whether it was inside Lebanese territory or not.
Military mobilization on the Lebanese side was met with alarm by the Israelis stationed near the gate, who dispatched some 15 soldiers and three armored vehicles, including a Hummer containing an electric command center, and raised a moving surveillance camera.
The Lebanese contingent and the Spanish UNIFIL unit moved in to remove the apparent spy box from the disputed area, but the Israelis indicated they would respond with force to any attempt to remove the device.
An Israeli team advanced and dismantled the device Monday. The maneuver sparked tension along the border, with peacekeeping forces fanning out around the disputed area in an effort to prevent escalation.
The Israelis were on high alert for any signs that the Lebanese Army or UNIFIL would prevent the removal of the device. While Lebanon claims the area is disputed, Israel says it lies inside the Blue Line.
UNIFIL sources said calls were made by the international force to avoid escalation.
Following the incident, UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti said the situation on the Blue Line around Adaisseh was “calm” and that “there is no tension as a result of the suspicious device being found in the area.”
“ UNIFIL came to an agreement with the Lebanese and the Israeli parties to demarcate the area where the suspicious device was found and determine whether it was inside Lebanese territory or not,” he said.
Lebanon has filed several complaints over Israeli spying with the U.N. over the years, most recently earlier this month when caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour reportedly turned over the coordinates of bugging devices planted by the Israelis along the border. It was unclear Monday the circumstances surrounding the Indonesian contingent’s discovery of the device, and whether it was related to the report.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 21, 2014, on page 3