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Israel Targets Sites in Lebanon

Mideast: Air raids in the Shabaa Farms area come after Hezbollah guerrillas attacked outposts.

January 24, 2002|From Associated Press

KFAR CHOUBA, Lebanon — Israeli warplanes attacked suspected Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon on Wednesday after the guerrillas fired rockets and mortar shells at Israeli outposts in a disputed border area.

In the first such air raids on Lebanon in three months, witnesses said Israeli jets swooped repeatedly over a hill in the Shabaa Farms area, firing at least six air-to-surface missiles. The Israelis also shelled guerrillas suspected to have targeted Israeli positions with rockets and mortars earlier.

In a statement issued in Beirut, the Lebanese capital, Hezbollah said guerrillas attacked an Israeli patrol in the Shabaa area, scoring a direct hit. The militant organization said the attack was "in response to repeated Israeli violations."

In Jerusalem, an Israeli army spokesman said Hezbollah fired missiles at a number of outposts, but no one was injured. He said the army responded, but would not say how.

Lebanese officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Israelis fired about 50 artillery shells at a valley near the Lebanese villages of Halta and Kfar Chouba, close to the Shabaa Farms area on Lebanon's border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Three homes in Kfar Chouba were hit by shrapnel, the Lebanese officials said.

There was no immediate word of casualties on the Lebanese side.

In a statement, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Hezbollah is "trying to cause deterioration and serious escalation in the region."

Hezbollah considers Shabaa Farms Lebanese territory and has vowed to liberate it, a position supported by the governments of Lebanon and Syria.

The United Nations, however, considers Shabaa Farms part of Syrian territory that Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East War, meaning that its status should be negotiated in any future Syrian-Israeli peace talks.

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