Israel fires on Lebanon in retaliation for soldier killing
JERUSALEM // Israeli troops shot two Lebanese soldiers early on Monday, hours after a Lebanese army sniper killed an Israeli soldier as he drove along the volatile border late at night, the Israeli military said.
The shootings raised the possibility of renewed fighting in the area, which has remained mostly quiet since a month-long war in the summer of 2006, though an Israeli defence official said Israel had no interest in further escalation.The Israeli army said it fired across the Lebanese border in retaliation after accusing Lebanese troops of gunning down one of its soldiers as he drove near the frontier.
The Israeli army said the soldier was shot by Lebanese troops as he was driving a civilian vehicle along a section of the border close to the Mediterranean coast.
“After the incident, we reached the area to conduct searches as part of the investigation, and saw two suspects on the other side of the border,” army spokesman Major Arye Shalicar told AFP.
Soldiers opened fire and hit at least one of them.
“We shot at them, and saw we hit at least one. We think they were Lebanese soldiers ... involved in the shooting of the soldier,” said Maj Shalicar.
The Israeli army immediately filed a protest with the UN peacekeeping force Unifil over what it said was an “outrageous breach of Israel’s sovereignty” saying it had “heightened its state of preparedness” and would maintain its “right to exercise self-defence”.
The army named the soldier as 31-year-old Master Sergeant Shlomi Cohen and said he was killed while driving near the Rosh Hanikra coastal border crossing.
“We understand there were six to seven rounds fired at him,” Maj Shalicar said, adding it was not yet clear whether it was the work of a sniper.
There was no official reaction from the Lebanese army to the incident, although it issued a statement saying an Israeli drone had violated Lebanese airspace in the same area.
“At 10.15pm (11.15pm UAE) yesterday, a drone belonging to the Israeli enemy violated Lebanese airspace over Naqoura, and performed a flyover of the southern area, then left at 12.40am,” it said.
Lebanon’s National News Agency reported late on Sunday that troops had opened fire at “an Israeli army unit” near the Naqoura border post.
But a security official denied soldiers 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,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Unifil spokesman Andrea Tinenti confirmed the force was aware of 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 said.
The last time a soldier was killed there was in August 2010, in an incident in which two Lebanese soldiers and a journalist also died.
Four days ago, the Israeli army said shots were fired across the frontier by what it called Lebanese “hunters” but there were no injuries.
And in August, four Israeli soldiers were wounded by an explosion some 400 metres inside Lebanese territory, in a blast claimed by Hizbollah.
Published: December 16, 2013 04:00 AM