One Hizbullah Fighter Killed; Lebanon FM Downplays Escalation Along Southern Border
Lebanon’s Hizbullah launched anti-tank rockets Tuesday at three Israeli outposts in occupied Shebaa Farms region, on the Israeli-Lebanese border. No Israeli injuries were reported in the attack.
This was the third attack carried out by Hizbullah in the past few days. Hezbollah's Al-Manar television reported that in response to the rockets that were fired, Israel Air Force jets fired at the southern Lebanese village of Shebaa.
The attacks ended early Wednesday morning.
Early Tuesday morning a Katyusha rocket fell in the northern Galilee, the first time a rocket has been fired since Israel's unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Shimon Peres asked U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to demand that Syria and Lebanon take "immediate, effective steps" to prevent new guerrilla attacks.
Reuters reported that Israeli artillery units responded to the rocket attacks by firing shells at the edges of the nearby Lebanese border town of Kfar Shouba.
Later Tuesday Hizbullah said that one of its fighters had been killed "while carrying out his task in the framework of holy war."
The attacks came as Israel told several European countries that Hizbullah was massing along its northern border and warned of “very serious” consequences if the fighters did not withdraw.
However, a Lebanese political source told the Lebanese Daily Star that the Katyusha firing early Tuesday was an “individual act” that was “more connected to frustration in Palestinian refugee camps than a resistance operation,” asserting that the government had contacted Hizbullah in a bid to avoid any escalation in the South.
Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud played down the escalation along the border, saying the government “knows what it’s doing.” But a Western diplomat warned that Hizbullah was “playing with fire” and said a miscalculation could result in south Lebanon “turning into a huge parking lot.”
According to a diplomatic source, Israel hopes its restraint will place the spotlight on Hizbullah and Syria and “gain them an invitation to the party that the Americans will be throwing for the Iraqis soon.”
According to the daily, Lebanese security sources believe, as in the past, that Israel’s actions will largely depend on whether the incidents along the border result in casualties.
“There is some optimism in that the Israelis are playing it cool,” a diplomat said. “But if there are casualties, Israel may respond first with a small bang. If Hizbullah reacts heavily, then south Lebanon will be turned into a parking lot.” (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)