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Israel fire on Lebanon in retaliation for soldier killing


Lebanese army soldiers are seen on their military vehicles as they are deployed on the streets of Sidon, southern Lebanon December 16, 2013. Photo - Reuters/Ali Hashisho

Jerusalem: The Israeli army said Monday 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 shooting was the first time an Israeli soldier had been killed along the border with Lebanon in more than three years, although commentators said it was unlikely to spark a confrontation.

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.

Troops 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 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," Shalicar explained saying 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 on Monday saying an Israeli drone had violated Lebanese airspace in the same area.

"At 10:15 pm (2015 GMT) yesterday, a drone belonging to the Israeli enemy violated Lebanese airspace over Naqoura, and performed a fly-over of the southern area, then left at 12:40 am," 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 told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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