IDF Lieutenant Colonel Dov Harari, 45, was killed in the border skirmish
with the Lebanese army Tuesday.
Harari was an IDF reservist who served as a battalion commander in the sector where the clash took place. Another Israeli commander sustained serious wounds in the skirmish, the army said.
IDF troops, UN forces on border (Photo: Avihu Shapira)
According to earlier reports, two Lebanese soldiers and a Lebanese journalist died in the border clash.
The incident took place midday Tuesday while IDF troops were operating in a border-area enclave in Israeli territory. The Lebanese army charged that Israeli soldiers crossed into Lebanon and said it opened fire at the troops. IDF forces responded shortly thereafter with artillery and tank fire.
'Speaking at a press briefing, Major General Gadi Eisenkot said Israeli troops encountered a "planned ambush" by Lebanese forces.
"It was a planned ambush by a sniper unit…this was a provocation by the Lebanese army," he said. "We view this fire was a highly grave incident. Our forces responded at once, and immediately after that we resorted to artillery and gunship fire."
The wounded Israeli soldier is 30-year-old reservist Captain Ezra Lakia, who was evacuated by helicopter to Haifa's Rambam hospital. Emergency room director Shlomi Israelit told Ynet that the soldier "suffered wounds to his chest area and to his left arm."
"Apparently, he suffered shrapnel wounds from yet to be determined arms," he said."
Wounded soldier en route to hopsital (Photo: Shai Vaknin)
According to Dr. Israelit, the wounded soldier was conscious when he arrived at the hospital and even spoke to his relatives on the phone. However, a CT scan showed that the damage he suffered was worse than expected, as the shrapnel damaged internal organs.
Hospital officials said the soldier was taken to the operation room in serious condition.
Lieutenant-Colonel Ilan Dikstein, deputy commander of Brigade 769, supervised over the IDF soldier's activity from Mitzpe Idan, near Kibbutz Misgav Am.
"Suddenly we heard a sound, and it was clear that it came from the Lebanese side of the border – accurate fire. The company commander (Lakia) was the first one hit; the battalion commander (Harari) leaned over to see what had happened and was hit by a bullet," Dikstein said.
"(The attack) caught us by surprise," he added.
The exchange of fire on the northern border started as IDF forces were engaging in routine operations in a border-area enclave in Israeli territory. The troops were focusing on clearing bushes along the border fence.
The IDF says the operation was undertaken in coordination with the Lebanese army. However, al-Jazeera's correspondent in Beirut Ghassan Bin Jido said the Lebanon army rejected the IDF's request to operate in the area two days earlier.
UN forces near clash area (Photo: AP)Around 10:30 am Tuesday, an IDF force comprising 10-15 soldiers approached the Lebanon border fence, where it encountered Lebanese soldiers who ordered the Israeli troops to turn back.
Several minutes later, Lebanese troops opened fire at the IDF force, which immediately responded by firing back. Two Lebanese soldiers and a local journalist were apparently killed at that point.
The IDF later directed artillery fire at Lebanon Army outposts and also dispatched gunships to strike the posts, which hold a dominating position and could have risked the Israeli troops on the ground. The Air Force also struck a Lebanese army headquarters in a nearby village.
Several Lebanese military vehicles were destroyed in the strike. IDF soldiers also spotted an RPG rocket fired at an IDF tank and missing its target.
Hagai Einav contributed to the story