Violence flares on Lebanon-Israel border

Nov. 21, 2005 at 11:14 AM
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TYRE, SOUTH LEBANON, Lebanon, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Violence flared on the Lebanese-Israeli border after the Shiite Hezbollah group opened fire at Israeli positions in south Lebanon.

Lebanese security sources said Hezbollah and Israeli forces exchanged rockets and heavy gunfire across the border in the Shabaa Farms region Monday.

Israel Radio said three soldiers were injured by Katyusha rockets fired at north Israel from the Lebanese side of the border.

It said four Hezbollah gunmen were also killed in the confrontation and that their bodies were lying in al-Ghajar village on the border between Lebanon and Syria's Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. There was no independent confirmation of Hezbollah's casualties.

Israel's Channel One television said the Israeli army aborted a Hezbollah operation to kidnap Israeli soldiers by trying to infiltrate Israel through al-Ghajar.

Hezbollah says it is fighting Israel to liberate the Shabaa Farms, which it considers part of Lebanese territory. But Israel insists it captured the area from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and that its fate should be settled with Damascus. The United Nations backs Israel's position.

A Hezbollah statement said the group's fighters attacked five Israeli positions on the other side of the border, inflicting several casualties among troops.

Israeli reports said the Israeli army advised the residents of kibbutz and the town of Metulla in north Israel to hide in underground shelters.

Shortly after the clashes erupted, Israeli warplanes raided Hezbollah positions near the village of Khyam as heavy gunfire exchanges continued.

The planes fired four air-to-surface rockets at the Hezbollah position in three consecutive rounds. There was no immediate information on possible casualties on the Lebanese side.

Witnesses said an atmosphere of a war prevailed in the region as the sound of exploding rockets echoed amid the roaring of warplanes.

Lebanon always complains about recurring Israeli violations of its air space and territorial waters, as Hezbollah often threatened to retaliate to the violations.

The surprise flare-up coincided with mounting international calls to implement U.N. Security Council resolution 1559, which stipulates disarming Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, in reference to Hezbollah, the only armed Lebanese group, and armed Palestinian factions.

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