Israeli warplanes bomb targets in south Lebanon as Powell crticizes Syria, Hizbullah
Israeli warplanes attacked southern Lebanon, according to Israeli TV station reports. They were targeting Hizbullah bases close to the border with Israel.
Two targets have been hit. Israel said the bases were used "to train and brief" Hizbullah fighters prior to military operations, Israel Radio reported.
Secretary of State Colin Powell blamed Hizbullah for deliberately igniting a new flare-up with Israel and cautioned Syria against giving any support to the Lebanese group.
Powell, at a news conference, said it was unfortunate that Hizbullah again has caused a need for Israel to respond by killing an Israeli soldier. "The deliberate action that they took, which resulted in the loss of life, once again demonstrates the nature of that organization," Powell said. "We believe that all parties interested in peace should condemn that kind of action by Hizbullah."
Turning to Syria, Powell said it should understand that "any support" for "terror" groups, whether vocal, permitting transshipment of weapons or permitting its leaders to remain in Damascus, destabilizes the Mideast and is not in the interest of peace.
He urged both Israel and Lebanon to monitor their actions carefully.
Earlier in the day, Israel's Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz accused Damascus of being responsible for the "escalation of violence" on Israel's border with Lebanon at the end of a special meeting of top security officials, convened to weigh a response to Hizbullah's killing of an Israeli soldier on the border Monday.
The soldier was in an Israeli bulldozer "clearing a series of Hizbullah-planted roadside bombs, when the vehicle was hit by the missile", according to Israeli media. A second soldier in the bulldozer was seriously wounded.
According to Israeli reports, the bombs were discovered two weeks ago, but their removal was delayed due to weather conditions.
"The Islamic resistance challenged a land violation by the Zionist occupation forces when one of its tractors crossed the border toward Lebanese land," Hizbullah said in a statement. "The tractor got a direct hit."
A top Lebanese army source, in the meantime, said Hizbullah fighters fired a rocket at an Israeli bulldozer that crossed into Lebanese territory, destroying it.
On his part, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said that a UN investigation had found that the Israeli military bulldozer was in Lebanese territory at the time of the strike.
"The investigation carried out by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) command has shown that the Israeli bulldozer was inside Lebanese territory," Lahoud said in a statement, quoted by AFP. "And this constitutes a clear violation of the Blue Line," said Lahoud.
Meanwhile, Israeli Major General Benny Gantz, head of GOC Northern Command, said the bulldozer crossed an Israeli security fence to "clear the bombs planted by Hizbullah, but operated short of the international frontier".
He placed responsibility for Hizbullah's operations on Syria and Lebanon, and said that the people on the other side of the northern border "should be worried." (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)