Israeli and Lebanese liaison officers met with UNIFIL Monday, Dec. 16, to clarify the circumstances in which a Lebanese soldier Sunday shot dead Navy Master Sgt. Shlomi Cohen, 31, from Afula, while he was driving past the northern Israeli town of Rosh Hanikra.
At the end of the meeting, the Israel Defense Forces officers appeared ready to accept the Lebanese explanation that a member of its armed forces acted on his own initiative and “did not consult his station before carrying out the attack,” claiming it was a one-time incident. The soldier, they said, had been taken to the Defense Ministry offices in Beirut for interrogation.
debkafile: The Lebanese account of the incident did not clear up the questions surrounding the attack, although Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon insisted earlier Monday that Israel would demand explanations of how it happened, whether it was a “rogue” attack and how the soldier was being disciplined. The minister wanted to hear what the Lebanese army was doing to prevent this sort of incident recurring.
Our military sources stress that Israel’s willingness to be fobbed off with lame Lebanese explanations is bound to have a negative effect on its posture of deterrence, broadcasting weakness in the face of its avowed enemies Iran, Hizballah, and Syria – especially since this was the second shooting attack from Lebanon in three days.
Thursday, Dec. 12, cross-border gunfire at Israeli soldiers by another Lebanese soldier who apparently “forgot to consult” his superiors, was allowed to go without response, with the IDF spokesman speaking vaguely of “errant fire from Lebanese huntsmen” – although a fierce rainstorm was raging at the time.
Our sources report that the US, the UN and France, turned the heat on Jerusalem during the day to prevent the military encounter across the Israeli-Lebanese border from escalating into a major clash.
Israel for its part was mum about the details of the event. The IDF avoided disclosing why and who was responsible for the late Master Sgt Shlomi Cohen being ordered to turn around on his way home to Afula and take on an undisclosed mission along the Lebanese border, without being properly equipped.
The first debkafile report on the attack appeared Sunday..
The IDF confirmed Sunday night, Dec. 15 that an Israeli soldier, The soldier, Navy Master Sgt. Shlomi Cohen, 31, from Afula, was killed in the Rosh Hanikra region opposite Ras Naqoura when a Lebanese soldier fired on his vehicle. The military spokesman earlier reported the Lebanese soldier had fired 6-10 rounds, after which Lebanese soldiers poured into the area. The spokesman said Israel takes a grave view of the incident and has summoned reinforcements to the border region. “We are ready for any step and reserve the right to retaliate at the right place and time,” he said.
The Lebanese army announced that “contact was lost with a Lebanese soldier,” believed to be the sniper,without explaining whether the soldier was thought to have been captured by Israel or fled. Also claimed was that an IDF patrol had crossed into Lebanon and was fired on by Lebanese troops, after which Israel air force planes flew over southern Lebanon.
In another incident in the Sidon area further north, two Lebanese military positions or checkpoints were attacked. A Lebanese soldier and four attackers were killed. In one attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up.
Both took place in the al-Awwali district of northern Sidon, at the same time as the flare-up on the Israeli border further south. Heavy Lebanese military movements were sighted after the attacks. The Jund Al-Sham and other Al Qaeda-linked organizations in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain Hilwa outside Sidon went on a high state of preparedness.
The IDF is investigating to find out if the Lebanese soldier who attacked the Israeli patrol was connected with the Sidon assailants.
debkafile’s military and counterterrorism sources say that if the two events turn out to be connected, it would constitute a coordinated attack by the same terrorist group on the IDF across the Israeli border and the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon.
Before midnight Sunday, the UNIFIL spokesman reported a serious incident in the Ras al-Naqoura and Serra sectors and called for restraint by Israeli and Lebanese commanders. He gave no details of the incident.