Soldier killed by Lebanese sniper laid to rest

Israeli, Lebanese officers to meet to discuss attack that killed Shlomi Cohen, 31; defense minister warns Lebanon government

Shlomi Cohen, 31, an IDF soldier who was killed by a rogue Lebanese soldier in a cross-border shooting, Sunday, December 15, 2013 (photo credit: Facebook)
Shlomi Cohen, 31, an IDF soldier who was killed by a rogue Lebanese soldier in a cross-border shooting, Sunday, December 15, 2013 (photo credit: Facebook)

The Lebanese serviceman who killed IDF Master Sgt. Shlomi Cohen in a cross-border attack on Sunday night turned himself in to authorities in Lebanon on Monday morning, Lebanese media reported.

Cohen, 31, from the northern town of Afula, was buried in Haifa on Monday afternoon. He is survived by his wife and 11-month-old daughter, Shahar.

Cohen’s father Yossi, holding back tears in TV interviews, called him “a golden child… an angel… beloved by everyone.”

IDF officials were set to meet with UN personnel and Lebanese Army officers early Monday afternoon. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel would request an explanation from the Lebanese army about whether the soldier acted on his own, without orders, and what the Lebanese army would do to prevent such incidents in the future. 

Ya’alon took a combative tone on Monday morning when he blamed the Lebanese government and military for the attack, asserting that “Israel will not abide violations of its jurisdiction along any border, and certainly not the Lebanese border.”

Lebanese media reported that Israeli jets were flying over various areas of south Lebanon on Monday morning.

At around 8:30 p.m. on Sunday night, Cohen, was driving a civilian vehicle near the naval base next to the border town of Rosh Hanikra, when shots were fired at his car from the Lebanese side of the fence.

Two bullets hit Cohen in the chest and neck, and he lost control of the vehicle, causing it to roll over.

According to the ZAKA rescue and recovery services, Cohen was evacuated to Nahariya’s Western Galilee Medical Center.

“A member of the security forces was brought to us in critical condition,” said the hospital’s director, Masoud Barhoum. “We attempted to resuscitate him for several minutes, but despite our efforts we had to declare him dead.”

Later, army spokeswoman Lt. Libby Weiss 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. Weiss had no details on the condition of the Lebanese soldiers.

Lebanon’s NNA said Israeli troops opened fire on a forested area on the Lebanese side of the border around 1 a.m. local time. The news agency did not report any Lebanese casualties.

The gunman ran toward the border, and fired six or seven bullets at the Israeli vehicle, which was on the Israeli side of the fence, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported. He then fled into a wooded area and hid until Monday morning, when he turned himself in.

The IDF initially searched the area in case the gunman crossed the border, but there were no signs of a breach.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a 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 Nations 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.

An IDF vehicle near the border with Lebanon at Rosh Hanikra, May 2013 (photo credit: Avishag Shaar Yashuv/Flash90)
An IDF vehicle near the border with Lebanon at Rosh Hanikra, May 2013 (photo credit: Avishag Shaar Yashuv/Flash90)

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.

The IDF issued a statement saying it “reserved the right to respond at a time and in a manner” of its choosing.

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.

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In 2010, Lebanese snipers shot at Israeli soldiers on the border, killing one and injuring another, 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.

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