IDF soldier shot dead by Lebanese soldier at border

Israel fires at Lebanese army position in response; gunman said to have shot 6-7 bullets across the fence before his colleagues converged on him; Hezbollah said on high alert

Ilan Ben Zion is an AFP reporter and a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

An IDF vehicle on the road near the Rosh Hanikra border with Lebanon. (photo credit: Avishag Shaar Yashuv/Flash90)
An IDF vehicle on the road near the Rosh Hanikra border with Lebanon. (photo credit: Avishag Shaar Yashuv/Flash90)

An IDF soldier was shot dead near the town of Rosh Hanikra, on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, on Sunday evening. The IDF returned fire, shooting at a Lebanese army position across the border.

The gunman was a member of the Lebanese Armed Forces, who fired six or seven bullets at a vehicle on the Israeli side of the fence, first reports said.

Initial reports said Israel regarded the attack as a “terrorist incident,” and believes the soldier was acting alone. IDF troops who witnessed the incident reportedly saw other Lebanese Armed Forces personnel converge on the gunman after he opened fire.

The incident 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, the IDF soldier 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 in a manner” of its choosing.”

The gunman was said to have “disappeared,” Army Radio reported.

The IDF statement added: “At approximately 20:30 this evening, shots were fired at a civilian vehicle traveling along the Israel-Lebanon border, near Rosh Hanikra. The IDF has confirmed that the sniper is a member of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). An investigation of the incident is underway.”

The IDF initially searched the area in case the gunman crossed the border, but  no cross-border infiltration was discovered.

The United Nation’s Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) urged restraint by both sides.

The IDF said Israel conveyed a severe protest to the UN over “this outrageous breach of Israel’s sovereignty” and beefed up its presence along the border.

A Hezbollah-affiliated website reported that the Lebanese terror group 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 news also quoted Lebanese military officials saying Israeli planes entered Lebanon around 8 p.m.

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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.

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