An Israeli soldier was shot dead near the town of Rosh Hanikra, on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, while traveling in a non-military vehicle there at around 8:30 p.m. on Sunday. He was later identified as Master Sgt. Shlomi Cohen, 31, from the northern town of Afula.
The IDF returned fire shortly after the incident, hitting a Lebanese army position across the border and wounding a Lebanese soldier, according to media in Lebanon.
The gunman was a member of the Lebanese Armed Forces, Lebanon’s National News Agency confirmed. He fired six or seven bullets from Lebanese territory at the Israeli vehicle, which was on the Israeli side of the fence.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in statement that Israel and Lebanon were “cooperating with the United Nations… to ascertain the facts.” Ban urged both sides to exercise restraint, as did the United Nation’s Interim Force in Lebanon.
Ban’s statement came as Israel conveyed a severe protest to the UN over “this outrageous breach of Israel’s sovereignty” and beefed up its presence along the border.
The IDF was still trying to glean details of the incident on Monday morning.
Initial reports said Israel regarded the attack as a “terrorist incident,” and believed the Lebanese shooter was acting alone. IDF troops who witnessed the shooting were said to have seen other Lebanese Armed Forces personnel converge on the gunman after he opened fire.
The shooting happened near the spot where a bomb blew up an army jeep, injuring four soldiers, in August.
According to the ZAKA rescue and recovery services, Cohen was evacuated to a local hospital and died of his wounds en route.
The IDF issued a statement saying it “reserved the right to respond” at a time and place and in a manner of its choosing.
The gunman was said to have “disappeared,” Army Radio reported.
The IDF initially searched the area in case the gunman crossed the border, but there were no signs of a border breach.
A Hezbollah-affiliated website reported that the Lebanese terror group had put its fighters in southern Lebanon on high alert after the incident.
Hezbollah’s al-Manar news agency claimed an IDF patrol had crossed into Lebanese territory and was fired upon by the Lebanese Armed Forces. It said the IDF fired flares over the border into Lebanon, and that a Lebanese soldier went missing during the clashes.
Al-Manar also quoted Lebanese military officials as saying Israeli planes entered Lebanon around 8 p.m.
Cohen’s funeral was called for 5 p.m. on Monday in Haifa.
In 2010, Lebanese snipers shot at Israeli soldiers on the border, killing one and injuring another, and sparking an international incident. Three Lebanese soldiers and a journalist were killed in Israeli retaliatory strikes.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a three-week war in 2006, but the border with Lebanon has remained mostly quiet since.
AP contributed to this report.