June 30, 2005

Fresh gunfire at tense Israel-Lebanon border

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Gunfire erupted at Israel's borderwith Lebanon on Thursday and the Israeli army said troopsclashed with Hizbollah guerrillas for the second day running inthe worst violence there for six months.

Hizbollah said the Israeli army had opened fire but itsforces did not respond.

Israeli troops patrolling near a post in the flashpointShebaa Farms area found two guerrillas who were involved in anattack on Wednesday in which an Israeli officer was killed andhad remained nearby overnight, an army spokeswoman said.

"It's part of an ongoing incident which began yesterdaywhen a terrorist cell belonging to Hizbollah penetrated intoIsraeli territory," said army spokeswoman Major SharonFeingold, adding that the incident took place inIsraeli-controlled territory.

"This morning we identified several members of theHizbollah cell near the army post. We don't yet know how manypeople we hit," she added.

Israeli military sources added that it appeared that oneguerrilla was killed and the body of another killed in fightingon Wednesday was found in the brush near the army base.

In Beirut, a Hizbollah spokesman said: "It was Israeli firedirected at the Lebanese territories. There was no exchange offire, we did not fire back," he said.

An Israeli soldier was killed when Hizbollah guerrillasinfiltrated Israeli-held territory on the border on Wednesday.

Hizbollah was instrumental in ending Israel's 22-yearoccupation of southern Lebanon in 2000. The two foes haveclashed sporadically in the Shebaa Farms since.

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.