Daily Star – BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Sleiman and newly appointed commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces General Jean Kahwaji offered condolences on Saturday to the family of First Lieutenant Samer Hanna, who was killed when his helicopter was hit by Hizbullah gunfire on Thursday. Hanna’s helicopter was shot at during a training session in the Sejod Hills in Southern Lebanon, a region known to be a Hizbullah stronghold.  Sleiman and Kahwaji paid separate visits to Hanna’s family at their residence in the northern town of Tannourine.  The army officer was laid to rest on Friday.  Meanwhile, judicial authorities on Saturday continued to investigate the Thursday’s incident after Hizbullah handed over the assailant and said that the incident had been the result of "confusion."

News reports Sunday quoted Defense Minister Elias Murr as telling a Cabinet session on Friday that Hizbullah fighters could have mistaken the Lebanese helicopter for an Israeli one.  The reports quoted Murr as saying the helicopter’s ID plate had a different color than the plates of the army’s traditional helicopters, adding that Hizbullah fighters had rushed to help Hanna and his wounded comrade when they realized that the targeted helicopter belonged to the Lebanese Army. The helicopter had recently been donated by the United Arab Emirates to the Lebanese Armed Forces, the reports added.  Hizbullah’s second in command, Sheikh Naim Qassem, told Al-Manar television on Friday that the incident was surrounded by confusion.  Qassem said that Hizbullah would abide by whatever the army and judicial investigators said in the matter.  Meanwhile, Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud told Voice of Lebanon radio on Saturday that he wanted to hear an explanation rather than a justification for Thursday’s attack. "We are seeking an explanation not a justification for what happened … such explanation will be provided through judicial investigations and not political interpretations," the minister said.

Information Minister Tarek Mitri also commented on the attack and told LBC television on Saturday that the shooting incident proved a "lack of coordination" between Hizbullah and the Lebanese Army.

"Everybody was worried after what happened on Thursday, but Hizbullah’s handing over of the assailant has helped reduce our fears," he said.

Mitri added that the incident has reflected negatively on the resistance’s image and proved the "urgency" of discussing the nature of relations between the Lebanese state and armed groups in the country.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar told the local newspaper Al-Anwar on Sunday that it was hard to believe that Thursday’s attack was part of a conspiracy against the Lebanese Army.

But Najjar described the incident as a "horrible act" and said that the death of a young officer was a "national disaster."

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea also described the incident as "unnatural."

"Regardless of whether the attack was intentional or not, it proved that we are living under unnatural conditions," he said.

"Is this a natural incident that could happen in any country in the world?


If not, why should Lebanon and its army live under unnatural conditions?" Geagea asked.

Meanwhile, former President Amin Gemayel said after visiting Sleiman on Saturday that "handing over the assailants was not enough."

"What happened is really dangerous and reminds us of what used to happen in the 1970s between Palestinian guerrillas and the Lebanese Army," he said.