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Israel, Lebanon move to ease tensions from border shootings

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By The Associated Press
Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, 10:00 p.m.

JERUSALEM — Israel and Lebanon on Monday rushed to ease tensions after a deadly border skirmish that left an Israeli soldier dead, with the enemy countries holding a face-to-face meeting with U.N. peacekeepers and pledging their commitment to a seven-year-old cease-fire.

The U.N. peacekeeping force along the volatile border, UNIFIL, said it called the meeting to “establish the facts and circumstances” behind the flare-up in violence and to restore a cease-fire that has been in place since a 2006 war. It said both sides pledged to preserve “calm and stability.”

In Sunday's incident, a Lebanese sniper opened fire at an Israeli vehicle traveling near the border area of Rosh Hanikra, killing a soldier inside. Several hours later, the Israeli military said it shot two Lebanese soldiers after spotting “suspicious movement” in the same area. It was the heaviest fighting between the enemy countries in more than three years and drew condemnations and threats of retaliation from Israel.

Late Monday, the Lebanese army distanced itself from the incident, saying the shooting was the result of an “individual act” by a soldier.

It said a military committee was investigating the incident and was coordinating with the U.N. peacekeeping mission. With the shooter in custody, there was no word on a motive for the attack and no mention of the two soldiers allegedly shot by Israel. The Lebanese army stressed its full commitment to U.N. resolutions, including maintaining the 2006 cease-fire.

The tame language, and near apology for the incident, was rare for the Lebanese military, which is usually quick to point out Israeli border transgressions.

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