IDF issues rare apology after strike kills Lebanese soldier

In first such incident of Israel-Hamas war, army says troops ‘were working to neutralize a tangible threat’ at a Hezbollah post, stresses Lebanese forces weren’t the target

A picture taken from the Israeli side of border with Lebanon shows Israeli shelling around the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab on December 5, 2023. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)
A picture taken from the Israeli side of border with Lebanon shows Israeli shelling around the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab on December 5, 2023. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

In a rare statement, the Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday expressed regret for killing a Lebanese soldier while striking a Hezbollah-linked target earlier in the day, the first such death since cross-border hostilities began in October.

The Lebanon-Israel border has seen intensifying exchanges of fire since the war broke out in Gaza between Hamas and Israel on October 7, with Israeli forces responding to attacks mainly involving Iran-backed Hezbollah, raising fears of a broader conflagration.

“An army military position in the… Adaysseh area was bombarded by the Israeli enemy, leaving one soldier martyred and three others injured,” the Lebanese army said in a statement.

According to the IDF, Israeli forces “were working to neutralize a tangible threat that was identified” at a Hezbollah launch and observation post along the border.

“The IDF received a report that a number of soldiers in Lebanon’s army were injured during the attack. Lebanese army forces were not the target of the attack,” the statement said. “The IDF is sorry for the incident, and it will be investigated.”

Commenting on the Lebanese soldier’s death, the UN peacekeeping mission (UNIFIL) said in a statement: “The Lebanese Armed Forces have not engaged in conflict with Israel.

“During the last days, we have seen a rapid and alarming increase in violence,” UNIFIL added, urging an end to “the cycle of violence, which could lead to devastating consequences for people on both sides.”

Illustrative: A Lebanese soldier monitors the border area with the northern Israeli town of Metula on October 8, 2023. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

Israel’s northern border with Lebanon has heated up significantly since the Israel-Hamas war began, with Hezbollah seeking to tie down troops with a steady stream of low-level clashes and attacks.

Since the cross-border exchanges began, more than 110 people have been killed on the Lebanese side, mostly Hezbollah fighters and more than a dozen civilians, according to an AFP tally.

Hezbollah has said that 79 of its members have been killed since the war’s outbreak in southern Lebanon.

On the Israeli side, six soldiers and three civilians have been killed.

The fighting has displaced tens of thousands from Israel’s northern communities, which have been pummeled by rocket fire and shelling carried out by Hezbollah and allied Palestinian groups.

Israel launched its war on Hamas in Gaza after thousands of terrorists infiltrated into southern Israel on October 7, massacring some 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians, and taking some 240 hostages. Daily exchanges of fire and attacks, with Hezbollah, Hamas and other terror groups have raised fears of a broader conflagration.

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