Israeli, Lebanese, U.N. officers to discuss cross-border killing

BEIRUT/JERUSALEM Mon Dec 16, 2013 5:23am EST

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (L) looks at Israel's armed forces chief Major-General Benny Gantz during a visit to a military base near Kibbutz Kissufim outside the central Gaza Strip May 7, 2013. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (L) looks at Israel's armed forces chief Major-General Benny Gantz during a visit to a military base near Kibbutz Kissufim outside the central Gaza Strip May 7, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Amir Cohen

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BEIRUT/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli, Lebanese and U.N. military officers will meet on Monday to defuse tension after a "rogue" Lebanese soldier shot dead an Israeli soldier the day before, Israel's defense minister said.

The Lebanese soldier went missing after the cross-border shooting, but has now been found, a Lebanese security source said.

Sunday's incident jarred the relatively stable standoff between the two neighbors, which last saw major hostilities in the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon 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 U.N. 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," Yaalon said.

Israel said its soldier was driving near the border fence at its westernmost point of Rosh Hanikra when he was shot by a Lebanese army sniper. Israeli troops who searched the frontier area later shot at two Lebanese soldiers who "made suspicious movements", hitting one of them, an army spokeswoman said.

The Lebanese security source said the Israelis fired into Lebanon during the night, but had caused no casualties.

"The (Lebanese) soldier was found this morning by the Lebanese army in the area where the shooting took place," the source said, without giving further details. Contact with the soldier had been lost after the incident.

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.

"We will not tolerate violations of our sovereignty along any border, and certainly not the Lebanese border," Yaalon said.

(Reporting by Oliver Holmes in Beirut and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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