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Middle east

Israel retaliates after soldier killed by Lebanese sniper

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-16

Israeli forces reportedly shot two Lebanese soldiers on Monday, just hours after a Lebanese army sniper killed an Israeli soldier as he drove along the border between the two countries.

The first shooting took place near the Rosh Hanikra border crossing which has been mostly calm since a month-long war between Hezbollah and Israel in the summer of 2006. The soldier killed was identified as Shlomi Cohen, 31, from the northern Israeli city of Afula.

Israel retaliated in the early hours of Monday morning by shooting the two Lebanese soldiers, according to AP.

Israeli army spokeswoman Lt. Libby Weiss said Israeli forces identified “suspicious movement” along the border just after midnight and opened fire. She said the shooting occurred near where Cohen was killed. Weiss had no details on the condition of the Lebanese soldiers.

Lebanon’s NNA said Israeli troops opened fire on a forested area on the Lebanese side of the border around 1am local time. The news agency did not report any Lebanese casualties.

Israel also lodged a complaint with the United Nations force in southern Lebanon and raised its state of preparedness along the border, said Israeli Defence Force spokesman Peter Lerner.

“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.

Lebanon’s National News Agency confirmed the shooting by a member of the Lebanese army. It was not clear why the soldier opened fire. The Lebanese army has opened fire in the past after saying Israeli soldiers had tried to infiltrate into Lebanon. There was no immediate comment from Lebanese security officials.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in statement that both sides were, “cooperating with the United Nations ... to ascertain the facts,” and he urged both sides to exercise restraint.

Past tensions

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.

Andrea Tenenti, a spokesman for United Nations forces in southern Lebanon, said the UN had been informed of a “serious incident” along the border. He said the peacekeeping force UNIFIL was in contact with both the Lebanese and Israeli armies, and that they were cooperating.

“The incident happened on the Israeli side of the blue line,” he said, referring to a UN-drawn line demarcating the border between the two enemy states. He gave no further details, saying that the UNIFIL was still investigating.

The 2006 war broke out after Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas crossed into Israel and captured two Israeli soldiers. The ensuing month-long conflict resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis.

Hezbollah, which has an arsenal of tens of thousands of missiles and rockets aimed at Israel, is preoccupied with the war in neighbouring Syria, where it is aiding the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. Israeli officials believe Hezbollah is not interested in opening a new front with Israel at the current time.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)
 

Date created : 2013-12-16

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