At Least Six Israelis Killed in Shooting Attack Near the Lebanese Border; Hizbullah TV: Palestinians Behind Attack
At least two gunmen opened fire Tuesday noon on Israeli vehicles traveling along the Lebanese - Israeli border.
Reports from the scene indicated that Israeli security forces killed two of the gunmen responsible for the attack after a 30-minute gun-battle close to kibbutz Metzuba.
Israeli security forces conducted aerial and land searches for possible other members of the armed cell and shots were heard in the area, some two hours after the attack began.
At least six Israelis, including a police officer, were killed and six were wounded in this assault. The gunmen were killed during a 30-minute gunbattle with the Israeli forces.
Israeli police sources said that a truck driver, two women in a second car and a person in a third vehicle were among those killed in the shooting attack.
It was not known wether the attackers, who hid in undergrowth at the side of the road, crossed the border from Lebanon, or were Palestinians from the West Bank. The gunmen were dressed in Israeli army uniforms and armed with Kalashnikov rifles.
Israel's commander of the Galilee police, Yehuda Sulman said that, "there was no indication of a terrorist infiltration from the northern border." The United Nations also said that it did not detect any infiltration on the border, as did the Israeli army.
Ra'anan Gissin, an adviser to Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, stated whether the attackers came from Lebanon or from within Israel, their purpose was to provoke a wider war.
"We will not allow any kind of escalation ... At the same time, we'll pursue the terrorists and those who perpetrated this act and we'll be able to strike at them with impunity," he commented.
Israeli military sources told Haaretz that they believed the gunmen came from inside Israel or the West Bank, but did not rule out the possibility that the attack was planned in Lebanon.
An Israeli farmer from the Western Galilee, Yitzhak Friedman, said that he had seen what appeared to be two soldiers in the area Tuesday morning about four hours before that attack started. He had waved to them, and they waved back. He was brought in by the authorities to identify the bodies of the gunmen, and said that they were then men he had seen earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, the TV station of Lebanese Resistance Hizbullah reported Tuesday afternoon that Palestinian guerrillas were behind the attack on the Israeli border.
"The intifada holy warriors shifted their operations to the occupied northern Palestine and the Golan at noon today by attacking a Zionist bus near the Shlomi settlement," said a newscaster on Al Manar TV.
The gunbattle erupted along the Lebanese border not far from the area where last night shots were fired at an Israeli outpost.
It was the first such incident along the Israeli Lebanese border since the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon in May 2000, The Jerusalem Post reported.
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)