The soldier, Petty Officer 1st Class Shlomi Cohen, 31 from Afula, will be laid to rest Monday afternoon in Haifa. According to an initial IDF assessments, he was killed by the fire of a Lebanese soldier "who acted on his own accord," the army said.
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Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon commented on the shooting and said: "This was a very serious incident. The person who shot our soldier was a Lebanese soldier. We see the Lebanese government and army as responsible for what happens on their side of the border."
Ya'alon added that "Today (Monday) liaisons from the IDF and Lebanese Armed Forces will meet together with UNIFIL representatives to understand what exactly took place. But we will not accept any infringement on our sovereignty, certainly not from Lebanon."
The Lebanese Armed Forces soldier who opened fire has reportedly returned to his barracks after his whereabouts were unknown in recent hours, the National News Agency was quoted as reporting by Now Lebanon Monday morning.
After the incident occurred Sunday night the IDF opened fire towards suspicious figures across the border. Later, at around midnight, heavy artillery was brought in and implemented against a Lebanese Armed Forces' outpost. The IDF belive the assailant was wounded as a response of the IDF onslaught.
The IDF flooded the area with large number of forces and IDF lookouts spotted crowds of Lebanese Armed Forces gathering on the Lebanese side of the scene.
In contradiction to initial assessments, the IDF now claim the navy soldier was on operational duty at the time of his death – driving alone en route to the Rosh Hanikra outpost.
The investigation revealed that he was shot six to 10 times from a distance of some 200 meters (218 yards). Gun shot holes were also found on the car. The investigation further said that the soldier was driving - in accordance with IDF directives – in an administrative vehicle (as opposed to an armored one) but along a side-route and not the border-fence road.
An IDF source stressed that the IDF's investigation will also examine the directives regulating travel along sensitive and dangerous roads in unarmored vehicles.
The investigation also revealed in the few hundred meters that run between the IDF outpost and the Lebanese one - from which the shooting originated – a UNIFIL outpost is situated. The area itself, east of the army's outpost, is covered with heavy vegetation and from time to time UNIFIL conducts infrastructure work along the fence.
The director of the hospital in Nahariya, Dr. Masaad Barhoum, said that just before 9 pm, a man in the armed forces, whose condition was critical, arrived at the hospital.
“We continued trying to resuscitate him for several minutes, but despite the efforts we were forced to pronounce him dead. He was transferred to the hospital in critical condition in an army ambulance. He was hit in the upper body, in his neck and chest. I can’t say that he was hit by gunfire, it could be shrapnel, we can’t tell for sure.”
Multiple units arrived across the border with Lebanon to make sure no terrorists had infiltrated into the surrounding settlements, and Israeli aircraft were also circling the area to help with the checks. The army has set up barricades in the area, as well.
A high-ranking army representative said the circumstances of the event were not clear but that this was a serious incident. “We’re deciding how to act, and we’re continuing to prepare ourselves near where the incident happened. We have sent serious statements to the other side, via UNIFIL. There has ben no indication of an infiltration of terrorists.”
'Outrageous breach of sovereignty'
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman, said "The IDF has protested this outrageous breach of Israel’s sovereignty with UNIFIL and has heightened its state of preparedness along the border."
"We will continue to investigate the incident. We will not tolerate aggression against the state of Israel, and maintain the right to exercise self-defense against perpetrators of attacks against Israel and its civilians," he said.
The IDF further said that it "has confirmed that the sniper is a member of the Lebanese Armed Forces."
Lebanon's state National News Agency reported that Lebanese Armed Forces troops opened fire on Israeli soldiers near the Rosh Hanikra border crossing.The Lebanese army has opened fire in the past after saying Israeli soldiers had tried to infiltrate. Lebanese security officials did not immediately comment.
Hezbollah's Al-Manar television, in turn, said that the Israeli troops had been attempting to cross into Lebanese territory.
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.
Andrea Tenenti, a spokesman for UN forces in southern Lebanon, said the UN was 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 UNIFIL was still investigating.
Roi Kais, the Associated Press, Maor Buchnik, Yitzhak Benhorin and AFP contributed to this report
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