Israeli Outpost Attacked on the Lebanese Border: Israeli Daily: Hizbullah, Backed by Syria, Plans Major Attack
Gunmen fired from Lebanon on an Israeli military outpost on the border between the two countries on Monday, local witnesses and the Israeli army said.
Lebanese residents of the border area said a group of armed men carried out the attack with automatic rifles, Reuters reported.
Two of the gunmen were hurt in the clash with Israeli troops and transported to hospital, the witnesses said. Medics who treated them said they believed the injured were Palestinian refugees.
The Israeli army said its troops in the western sector of the Lebanese border returned fire on four men who had come up to the frontier fence under cover of darkness and had opened fire from there at the military outpost within Israel.
It appeared to be the first attack from Lebanon on an Israeli post in the western sector since Israeli troops pulled out from south Lebanon in May 2000.
The Lebanese witnesses said the men fired automatic rifles at an Israeli outpost facing the border village of Rmeish, around 30 km southeast of a large Palestinian refugee camp near the city of Tyre.
The Israeli troops responded by opening fire and dispatching attack helicopters, they added.
The Lebanese Hizbullah guerrilla group has said its fighters would not sit idle while Israel besieges the West Bank headquarters of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.
Israel believes that Syrian President Bashar Assad has been ignoring Jerusalem's warnings concerning the ongoing activities of Hizbullah on the northern border.
According to the Tel Aviv based Haaretz daily, well-informed sources claim that Assad - who, they say, is also disregarding U.S. warnings on the matter - seems to have changed his attitude toward Hizbullah's operations against Israel, presumably on the assumption that Israel is not interested in opening a second front along the northern border, and is in no hurry to intervene in the activities of the Shi'ite group in Lebanon.
The assessments of the Israeli sources are based on recently-accumulated information and are causing concern with regard to a possible escalation on the Israel-Lebanon border.
Following the events of September 11, Israel confirmed that Assad was taking steps to rein in Hizbullah in an attempt to ward off U.S. action against Syria in the framework of the war against terror. Recently, sources in the know said Assad had taken action to put an end to arms shipments from Tehran to Lebanon, via Damascus, and that Hizbullah had taken to using alternative routes.
The sources say Hizbullah wants to drag Israel into a confrontation along the northern border and that the Pro Iranian group plans to respond harshly in the event that Israel carries out strikes against Syrian or Lebanese targets.
Amos Harel adds: At this stage, all the Israel Defense Forces reserve units that have been called up recently have been slated for operations in the territories. The IDF is, however, readying for the possibility of a flare-up along the northern border.
According to the newspaper, the Israeli Northern Command is preparing for a massive Hizbullah attack on Israel within the next day or two.
"Israel is close to the moment at which it will say `enough is enough' with regard to the north," a security source said Sunday. "We are very concerned about the preparations being made there in anticipation of attacks against us. Syria is chiefly responsible for this and Israel is likely to respond with a strong strike against Syrian interests in Lebanon if it is attacked again.” (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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