June 29, 2005

Hizbollah says killed Israeli soldier in clash

By Afif Diab

KFAR SHOUBA, Lebanon (Reuters) - Lebanese Hizbollahguerrillas struck army posts in an Israeli-occupied border areaon Wednesday and said they killed one Israeli soldier in anattack that drew air raids from the Jewish state.

An Israeli security source said there were four Israelicasualties but gave no details. Hizbollah's al-Manar televisionreported that one Israeli soldier was killed and five werewounded in the fighting in the Shebaa Farms area.

"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 since Jan. 9, when a Hizbollah attack and Israeliretaliatory strikes killed an Israeli officer, a Frenchmilitary observer and a Hizbollah guerrilla.

An Israeli military source said a guerrilla was hit inWednesday's fighting, but could not confirm whether he wasdead.

"At 4:30 p.m. (1330 GMT), a terrorist squad infiltratedIsraeli territory within Har Dov," Major-General Benny Ganz,chief of Israel's Northern Command, told Israel TV.

"We hit the squad and we are continuing our activity in thefield. As a result of this event, Hizbollah fired mortar bombsand rockets in the area."


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 infantry force crossed the Blue Line headingtoward Lebanese areas when it hit an advanced ambush of theIslamic Resistance," Hizbollah said in a statement.

"Clashes took place with machine guns ... and (Hizbollah)inflicted casualties among the enemy's soldiers."

The U.N.-delineated Blue Line marks Israel's withdrawalfrom south Lebanon and does not 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.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.

(Additional reporting by Alaa Shahine and Lin Noueihed)