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Hezbollah, Israel Clash Along Lebanese Border

Each side accuses the other of crossing over. Israeli forces respond with an airstrike.

June 30, 2005|From Associated Press

BEIRUT — Hezbollah guerrillas attacked Israeli forces in a disputed area on the southern Lebanese border Wednesday, wounding at least five soldiers and triggering an Israeli airstrike.

Hezbollah's Al Manar TV channel and Lebanese security officials said guerrillas attacked three Israeli positions with mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades in Shabaa Farms, an area where Lebanon, Syria and Israel meet.

There were conflicting reports from the Israeli army. One official said a soldier was killed and five troops were wounded. Another reported six wounded troops but no deaths.

In response, Israeli warplanes struck Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon, Israeli officials said.

Lebanese security officials said the warplanes fired six missiles at suspected hide-outs near Kfar Chouba and Shabaa village.

Israeli and Arab television reports said at least one Hezbollah fighter had been killed, but an official with the militant group said he had no word of casualties.

In Israel, the country's northern commander, Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, reiterated calls for the Lebanese government to rein in Hezbollah, saying the exchange began when Hezbollah guerrillas infiltrated across the border.

In a statement late Wednesday, Hezbollah said Israeli troops had crossed into Lebanon, where they were ambushed by its forces.

"Clashes erupted with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, which caused injuries among the enemy's soldiers," it said.

Shabaa Farms has become the focus of Hezbollah attacks on Israeli forces since the Jewish state withdrew its troops from southern Lebanon in 2000. Hezbollah periodically attacks the enclave.

Lebanon and Syria say Shabaa Farms is Lebanese territory, but United Nations cartographers who surveyed the border after the Israeli withdrawal said it was in a part of Syria that Israel has occupied since the 1967 Middle East War.

Hezbollah, which led a guerrilla war against Israel's 18-year occupation of territory in southern Lebanon, is under international pressure to disarm. A U.N. Security Council resolution passed in September demanded that all militias in Lebanon give up their weapons.

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