The Lebanese soldier who reportedly went missing after opening fire at an Israeli military vehicle Sunday night on the northern border, killing an Israeli soldier, has returned to his base.
The Israeli soldier who was killed, Master Sgt. Sholmi Cohen, 31, was a resident of Afula, according to the Israel Defense Forces. His family has been informed of his death and his funeral will be held in Haifa at 5 P.M. Monday.
According to a report in Lebanon's National News Agency on Monday, the Lebanese soldier had been hiding in a thicket since the shooting, and returned to his base to turn himself in Monday morning. It was not yet clear what actions – disciplinary or other - would be taken against him.
"The (Lebanese) soldier was found this morning by the Lebanese army in the area where the shooting took place," a Lebanese security source said Monday, without giving further details. Contact with the soldier had been lost after the incident.
Earlier Monday, the Lebanese army denied reports that the soldier had gone missing Sunday night and was in Israeli hands.
According to a report published Monday morning in the Lebanese Aljoumhouria newspaper, the Lebanese army was still investigating the incident and no formal statement had been issued.
An Israel Defense Forces vehicle being driven on the military road near the border, just east of the IDF outpost at Rosh Hanikra, was fired on at about 8:30 P.M. The shooter fired six or seven bullets from a pistol, evidently from a short distance. The IDF vehicle was on its way to the outpost, which operates Navy radar. Army lookouts saw some armed men gathering on the Lebanese side of the border. Their estimate was that these were Lebanese soldiers, not Hezbollah men.
Hours after the incident, the IDF shot two Lebanese soldiers. According to IDF spokeswoman Lt. Libby Weiss, the shooting took place just after midnight Monday, when the Israeli forces identified "suspicious movement" along the border.
Weiss said the shooting occurred near where a Lebanese army sniper killed an Israeli soldier late Sunday. She had no details on the condition of the Lebanese soldiers.
The Lebanese security source confirmed that the Israeli army had fired into Lebanon during the night, but said it had caused no casualties. The UN peacekeeping force along the Israel-Lebanon border said it had no information about a shooting Monday.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said in statement that Israel regards "the Lebanese government and the Lebanese army as responsible for what happens on their side".
He said Israeli and Lebanese liaison officers, along with peacekeepers of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, would meet to clarify the incident. UNIFIL said it was urging restraint.
"We will demand of the Lebanese army first of all an explanation as to what happened and whether this was indeed a rogue soldier; what they have done with him, and what the Lebanese army plans to do in order to prevent incidents of this kind," Ya'alon said.
Israel has lodged a complaint with UNIFIL, which has been stationed in southern Lebanon since 1978, and said it had heightened its state of preparedness along the border. The IDF also augmented its presence in the northern Rosh Hanikra area.
"We will not tolerate violations of our sovereignty along any border, and certainly not the Lebanese border," Yaalon said.
The Israeli-Lebanese border has remained mostly quiet since a month-long summer war in 2006. It did not appear that Sunday's incident would spark a larger confrontation between the sides.
Quiet prevailed on the border Monday morning, according to a Lebanese report. Israeli and Lebanese officials were scheduled to hold a meeting Monday at the UNIFIL headquarters located on the countries' border.
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