ON Aug 3, Lebanese troops fired on an Israeli military patrol that was pruning a tree along the border between the two countries. That set off a series of skirmishes which killed two Lebanese soldiers, a Lebanese journalist and an Israeli commander.
The situation was brought under control within a few hours and the border has been quiet since then. But this clash -- the most serious in four years -- underscores why Lebanon's southern frontier with Israel is the most volatile border in the Middle East today, and how easily a confrontation could spiral out of control.
The international community must not shift its attention away from Lebanon, a small country that has long been the staging ground of proxy wars in the region. With nearly 750 peacekeeping troops deployed in southern Lebanon, Malaysia is one of the largest contributors to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.
The latest fighting did not involve Hizbollah, the Iranian-funded Shia militia and political party that has fought Israel for decades. But Hizbollah remains a central player in the dangerous drama that is unfolding along the Lebanese-Israeli border.
When a pro-American coalition won Lebanon's parliamentary elections last year, a seductive conventional wisdom emerged among Western policymakers: because Hizbollah and its allies were defeated at the polls, the group would lose some of its lustre and a US-supported government would rule Lebanon.