BEIRUT — Heavy rocket and artillery exchanges erupted on the Lebanese-Israeli border Sunday, and Israeli warplanes struck Palestinian guerrilla bases near Beirut and near the Syrian border. Two guerrillas were reported killed.
Sunday's violence was the worst along the border since November and follows a car bombing Friday in southern Lebanon that killed a senior official of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad.
Lebanon's south had been relatively calm since the Israeli army withdrew from a buffer zone inside Lebanon in 2000.
The United States and the United Nations have been pressuring Lebanon to implement a 2004 U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, including Hezbollah and radical Palestinian groups.
But the Lebanese government considers Hezbollah, labeled a terrorist group by the United States and Israel, a legitimate resistance movement fighting Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory.
Sunday's fighting, which also wounded two Israeli soldiers, two Lebanese civilians and six guerrillas, started overnight when rockets fired from Lebanon landed across the Israeli border. None of the militant groups operating in the south have claimed responsibility for those initial attacks.
The violence quickly spread along the 49-mile border. The U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon brokered a cease-fire that took effect in the evening, said Milos Strugar, a spokesman for the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon.
Lebanese President Emile Lahoud blamed Israel, urging the international community to intervene "to put an end to Israel's aggressive actions."
But Israel put the onus for preventing violence on Beirut.
"We see the government of Lebanon, the sovereign government, as responsible for order and the need to preserve calm," Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said.
During the day, residents of two main northern Israeli towns, Kiryat Shemona and Nahariya, and five smaller border towns were ordered into shelters, but they were allowed out after the cease-fire. Israel issued a warning that it would hit back hard if the firing from Lebanon continued.
"They will receive a clear and harsh response with no hesitation if they do not stop," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned, calling the attacks "provocative and dangerous."
An Israeli Foreign Ministry official said Sunday that his country would present a complaint against Lebanon to the Security Council over the rocket attack.