Israeli and Lebanese liaison officers met with UNIFIL today 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 says that the Lebanese account of the incident did not clear up the questions surrounding the attack, although Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon insisted earlier today 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.
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. DEBKA FILE