Israeli forces shoot two Lebanese soldiers after sniper kills Israeli soldier

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 10:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 December, 2013, 3:31am


Israeli troops shot two Lebanese soldiers, hours after a Lebanese army sniper killed an Israeli soldier as he drove along the countries' volatile border late at night, the Israeli military said yesterday.

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 an escalation of the situation.

The Israeli soldier, Shlomi Cohen, 31, was fatally shot late on Sunday near Rosh Hanikra by a Lebanese army sniper, the Israeli military said.

Lebanon's National News Agency confirmed the shooting but it was not clear why the sniper had opened fire.

In the past, the Lebanese military has opened fire after saying Israeli soldiers had tried to infiltrate into the country.

Hezbollah, the guerilla group that waged the war against Israel seven years ago, did not appear to be involved in the incident.

After the Sunday killing, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman, said Israel had protested at "this outrageous breach of Israel's sovereignty" with UN peacekeeping forces in Lebanon and heightened its state of preparedness.

"We will not tolerate aggression against the state of Israel and maintain the right to exercise self-defence against perpetrators of attacks against Israel and its civilians," he said. But he added that "we have no interest in further escalation of violence".

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel would be meeting the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon to request an explanation from the Lebanese army about whether the soldier acted on his own without being ordered to shoot and what the Lebanese army would do to prevent such incidents in the future.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said both sides were "cooperating with the United Nations ... to ascertain the facts" and he urged Israel and Lebanon to exercise restraint.

Since the 2006 war, the border has experienced only sporadic violence. Israel has responded with air strikes and artillery fire following a number of rocket attacks and shootings across the border. In the most serious incident, a high-ranking Israeli officer was killed by a Lebanese sniper in 2010 after Israeli forces tried to cut down a tree along the border.

Israel responded with artillery fire, killing two Lebanese soldiers and a journalist.

The 2006 war broke out after Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerillas crossed into Israel and captured two Israeli soldiers.

The ensuing month-long conflict killed about 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis.