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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 July 2006, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Fear and resignation on volatile border
By Nick Thorpe
BBC News, Israel-Lebanon border

Northern Galilee on the Israel-Lebanon border is a rugged landscape of rocky outcrops and wooded hillsides.

Israeli soldiers cover their ears as they fire artillery over the border to Lebanon
Israel and Hezbollah are exchanging fire over the border
Local maps show many caves, favourite hiking destinations in more peaceful times.

The border itself zigzags along ridges.

The point where two vehicles carrying Israeli soldiers were ambushed on Wednesday morning is particularly exposed, a military road running right next to the border fence.

The burned-out remains of the two Humvees, low armoured cars in which they were travelling, are still there.

There is blood on the tarmac and some of the soldiers' belongings - a green flak jacket and knapsacks.

Mixed mood

The mood among the local Israeli population is a mixture of fear and resignation. Many have farms here and the animals need feeding.

Israeli Jeeps tour the villages making loudspeaker announcements warning people to go to their shelters - many houses here have small concrete shelters built in the yard.

Bomb shelter in the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona
Israelis are taking to their bomb shelters

"We were expecting something," said Amnon, a local resident in the village of Zarit.

"But the scale is a big surprise - there are explosions all the time."

Thousands of chickens in a battery farm close to an army camp cluck in terror each time another salvo is fired.

There is incoming fire from Lebanon too.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, rockets fired by Hezbollah militias struck several Israeli communities along the border.

One woman was confirmed dead in the seaside town of Nahariya, 11km (7 miles) from the border, and up to 16 injured in that town and other Israeli villages near Lebanon.

After a mid-morning lull, Israeli helicopter gunships were in action above the border around midday, firing with heavy machine guns from the air close to the border.

Green and yellow shells

Unconfirmed reports suggest that there may have been efforts to retrieve the bodies of four Israeli soldiers killed when their tank was blown up on Wednesday.

The Israeli government has threatened a severe response to the killing and capture of its soldiers.

This afternoon I watched two truck loads of green and yellow shells being delivered to a tank position.

They will soon be screaming over these beautiful hills into southern Lebanon.

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