Israeli troops shoot Lebanese soldiers in 'retaliation' gunfire

Shootings raise possibility of renewed fighting in area that has been mostly quiet since 2006 war

LAST UPDATED AT 12:09 ON Mon 16 Dec 2013

ISRAELI troops reportedly shot two Lebanese soldiers this morning after a Lebanese army sniper killed an Israeli soldier on the border last night.

Israel yesterday reported that Shlomi Cohen, a 31-year-old soldier, was fired at as he was driving a civilian vehicle along a section of the border close to the Mediterranean coast. He was taken to hospital but died from his injuries.

It was not clear why the Lebanese sniper had opened fire, but the move prompted strong condemnation from UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and heightened security on the border between the two countries.

Hours later an Israeli army spokeswoman said Israeli forces identified "suspicious movement" along the border just after midnight, and shot two members of Lebanon's armed forces. She said the shooting occurred near where Cohen was killed. Al Jazeera described the shootings as a "retaliation" against the sniper hit. However, it is not known whether the two Lebanese soldiers have been killed.

The shootings have raised the possibility of renewed fighting in the area, says the Washington Post. The border has remained mostly quiet since a month-long war in the summer of 2006 when Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah militants captured two Israeli soldiers – although Hezbollah, which has been preoccupied by the conflict in Syria, does not appear to be involved in Sunday's attack.

Yesterday, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman, said Israel "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". However, he added that "we have no interest in further escalation of violence".

The Israeli Defence Forces and Lebanese Armed Forces are said to be cooperating with the United Nations to confirm exactly what happened. Ban Ki-moon has urged both sides to exercise restraint. · 

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