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SATURDAY, 19 APR 2014
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Army says soldier acted alone in border shooting
UNIFIL peacekeepers patrol the border in Naqoura, Monday, Dec. 16, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
UNIFIL peacekeepers patrol the border in Naqoura, Monday, Dec. 16, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
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BEIRUT: A Lebanese soldier acting on his own accord was behind the shooting and killing of an Israeli soldier on the border with the Jewish state, the Army said Monday.

In a statement, the military said the incident "was a result of an individual act by one of the soldiers and the military committee is investigating the issue.”

It also noted that the Army was coordinating with UNIFIL to address the repercussions of the incident.

"The leadership affirms its full commitment to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 particularly in terms of preserving stability in border areas, with the cooperation and coordination of the peacekeepers,” it added.

Hours after an extraordinary tripartite meeting between senior military officials from both sides to ease tensions, UNIFIL also said the Lebanese soldier acted alone in the fatal border incident.

“All the circumstances of this incident are not clear at this time, but preliminary findings indicate that it was an individual action by a soldier in contravention of the existing operational rules and procedures,” Maj. Gen. Paolo Serra, head of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, said.

“At this stage it is imperative that UNIFIL’s investigation in cooperation with the parties, and in particular with the LAF [Lebanese Army], is concluded as soon as possible,” he added, according to UNIFIL statement.

His remarks came after Serra convened an emergency meeting with senior Lebanese and Israeli military officers at the U.N. headquarters in Ras Naqoura.

U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly also attended and addressed the meeting on behalf of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

A Lebanese soldier opened fire on an Israeli patrol on the Lebanese-Israeli border Sunday night, killing an Israeli soldier, a security source told The Daily Star.

According to UNIFIL statement, the tripartite meeting was aimed at establishing the circumstances surrounding the incident on Lebanon’s southern border “in order to fully restore the cessation of hostilities and to discuss measures to prevent such incidents from reoccurring.”

Serra who described the shooting as grave said he stressed at the meeting that the event “must remain an isolated incident.”

“We discussed concrete steps to strengthen the existing security arrangements along the Blue Line,” he added.

The UNIFIL commander also said he was encouraged by the discussion at the meeting and the way the two parties approached the issue and that the two affirmed their full commitment to the cessation of hostilities.

“In this context, the parties emphasized their interest in preserving calm and stability along the Blue Line and pledged to work with UNIFIL to strengthen security arrangements to this end,” he said.

“I have been engaged with my counterparts on both sides throughout the developments following the incident and I was encouraged by the full cooperation I received from them in restoring calm in the area,” he added. “Liaison and coordination have proven again to be vital in such dangerous situations and an essential mechanism to de-conflict the situation following any incident.”

Earlier Monday, Plumbly met with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the Grand Serail.

Ban condemned the shooting close to the Blue Line and stated that UNIFIL along with both armies were cooperating to determine the circumstances of the incident.

In a statement, Ban also reminded the Lebanese Army of its responsibilities under Security Council Resolution 1701 and strongly urged both sides to exercise restraint.

Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon held the Lebanese government and the Lebanese Army responsible for the death of the Israeli soldier.

“We will demand that the Lebanese army first of all provide an explanation of exactly what happened there, and whether this is really a rogue soldier, what they did with him, and what the Lebanese army plans to do to prevent incidents of this type," Yaalon said.

The Israeli Army identified the soldier as Shlomi Cohen. 31.

Israeli army spokeswoman Lt. Libby Weiss said Israeli forces identified "suspicious movement" along the border just after midnight, and shot two members of Lebanon’s Army.

She said the shooting occurred near the place where Cohen was killed. Weiss had no details about the condition of the Lebanese soldiers.

The Lebanese Army said eight Israeli warplanes entered Lebanon's airspace at 9:30 a.m. and conducted aerial maneuvers above various Lebanese areas. The planes left above Naqoura at 11:30 a.m.

The aerial activity coincided with Israeli patrols along the border.

U.N. peacekeepers and Lebanese soldiers also patrolled the Blue Line Monday while UNIFIL helicopters conducted routine overflights over the demarcation line.

 
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