Israeli soldier killed in Lebanon border shooting
Published Monday 16/12/2013 (updated) 17/12/2013 09:33
An Israeli soldier walks past a sign at the Israel-Lebanon border
crossing in Rosh Hanikra, on May 6, 2013.(AFP/File Ahmad Gharabli)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- An Israeli soldier was killed by a Lebanese army sniper on Sunday, the Israeli army said in a statement, maintaining its right to "exercise self-defense".
"The Israel Defence Forces officially confirms that an IDF soldier was shot while driving along the Israeli-Lebanese border, near Rosh Hanikra," it said in the statement released early Monday.
"The soldier was treated at the scene and was then evacuated to a hospital. He later died of his wounds."
The army later identified the soldier as Master Sergeant Shlomi Cohen, 31, from northern city Afula.
"Initial enquiry confirmed that the sniper is a member of the Lebanese Armed Forces," the army statement read.
The military earlier said that a Lebanese soldier had opened fire on an Israeli civilian vehicle near the Mediterranean border crossing at Rosh Hanikra.
Israeli news website Ynet, quoting army sources, said that the Lebanese soldier had fired six or seven rounds, probably "acting on his own initiative".
In Lebanon, the official National News Agency reported that "a Lebanese army unit opened fire at an Israeli army unit this evening at the border, near the Naqoura border post."
Speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, a security source denied reports that the Lebanese army had opened fire.
"The sound of gunfire was heard near the area of Ras al-Naqoura, and the army is trying to find out what happened," said the source.
The Israeli military statement said that Israel had complained to the United Nations peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.
"The IDF has protested this outrageous breach of Israel's sovereignty with UNIFIL and has heightened its state of preparedness along the border," it said.
"We will not tolerate aggression against the state of Israel and maintain the right to exercise self-defence."
UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tinenti said that his force was informed about a "serious" border incident and was trying to establish the facts.
"The situation is ongoing and the UNIFIL force commander is in contact with counterparts, urging restraint," he told AFP.
While there have been sporadic exchanges of fire with Syrians across the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights since the eruption of Syria's civil war, incidents on the Lebanese border have been rare since Israel's 2006 war against Lebanon's Hezbollah.
On Thursday, the Israeli army said that shots were fired across the frontier by what it called Lebanese "hunters". No casualties were reported.
In August, four Israeli soldiers on patrol were wounded in a blast 400 meters inside Lebanese territory, Lebanon's army and a UN peacekeeper in the border region said.
Hezbollah took credit for the explosion, its first such claim since the 2006 war.
The Israeli army reported four soldiers injured, without specifying their precise location.
Hezbollah last week said one of its top leaders was killed near Beirut, and blamed Israel, at a time of soaring tensions in Lebanon linked to the war in neighbouring Syria.
The dead man, identified as Hassan Hawlo al-Lakiss, was the group's most senior figure to be assassinated since Imad Mughniyeh in a Damascus bombing in 2008, when Hezbollah also blamed on Israel.
Israel dismissed the latest accusation and warned the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite group against any reprisal against its territory.
Israel occupied large swathes of Lebanon from 1978 to 2000. Lebanon and Israel are officially in a state of war.
UNIFIL deployed at the border separating the two countries after a bloody war in 2006 that in just over a month killed some 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.