June 29, 2005

Hizbollah attacks on Israeli posts kill four

By Afif Diab

KFAR SHOUBA, Lebanon (Reuters) - Hizbollah guerrillasstruck army posts in an Israeli-occupied border area onWednesday, causing four Israeli casualties and drawing airraids from the Jewish state, Hizbollah and Israel said.

"Following the Hizbollah attack, the air force targetedoutposts used by Hizbollah to carry out attacks against Israelitargets," the Israeli army said.

Witnesses said the warplanes bombed the outskirts of twosouth Lebanese border villages.

It was the most serious incident in the flashpoint ShebaaFarms area since Jan. 9, when a Hizbollah attack and Israeliretaliatory strikes killed an Israeli officer, a Frenchmilitary observer and a Hizbollah guerrilla.

Black smoke could be seen rising from posts in the hillyborder enclave after the guerrillas fired rockets and mortarbombs at three border posts. An Israeli security source put thenumber of casualties at four.

Hizbollah said it ambushed an Israeli patrol that crossedthe U.N.-delineated Blue Line, which marks Israel's withdrawalfrom south Lebanon, and the clashes broke out. The line doesnot represent a permanent border.

"There was fire across the Blue Line. UNIFIL is in contactwith both sides urging maximum restraint," said Milos Strugar,senior adviser to the United Nations observer force in southLebanon. "We are now in the process of ascertaining the facts."

Hizbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, was instrumental inending Israel's 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000.But the two foes have clashed sporadically in the Shebaa Farmssince.

The United Nations says Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon iscomplete and the Shebaa Farms is Israeli-occupied Syrian land.Lebanon and Syria say the area is still occupied Lebanese soil.

A U.N. resolution called last year for Syria to withdrawfrom Lebanon and Hizbollah to disarm. Syrian troops pulled outin April under Lebanese and international pressure but theguerrilla group vowed not to lay down its weapons.