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Sunday, 15 April, 2001, 21:50 GMT 22:50 UK
Hezbollah condemned for attacking Israel
Lebanese armed police stationed near a Syria checkpoint
The attack came at a time of tension in Lebanon
There has been widespread condemnation of an attack by Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon on Saturday which killed an Israeli soldier and provoked a retaliatory Israeli bombardment.

United Nations special envoy Staffan de Mistura relayed international concerns about the attack to Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, whose newspaper has also condemned it as "badly timed".

Israeli soldiers
Israel responded by firing about 60 shells at suspected guerrilla targets
Mr de Mistura said it was a "clear infringement" of UN Resolution 425, under which the UN certified Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon as complete.

"The blue line has been trespassed in a violent way," Mr Mistura said, referring to the border drawn by the UN between Lebanon and Israel after the Israeli withdrawal.

Saturday's attack was directed at an Israeli base in the area known as Shebaa Farms, which Lebanon claims as its territory but which Israel says is part of the Golan Heights and therefore must be determined by long-dormant Israeli-Syrian negotiations.

Lebanon disagrees

Hezbollah - a militant Shi'a Muslim organisation - has vowed not to stop resistance against the Israelis while they occupy what the group considers Lebanese territory, hold Lebanese prisoners and pose "threats to the homeland".

Hezbollah money collector
The government may act to rein in Hezbollah
In a front-page commentary, al-Mustaqbal newspaper asked: "Was the decision to carry out the operation a wise decision and did its timing serve Lebanon's supreme interests?"

The paper was also concerned about the effect on Lebanese political life at a time of high Christian-Muslim tension in the country over the presence of thousands of Syrian troops there.

Lebanese Christians have been pressing for a Syrian troop withdrawal to match the Israeli one, a demand opposed by many Muslims.

'Fire with fire'

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has promised fight fire with fire whenever Israeli forces are attacked, whether in the Palestinian territories or from Lebanon.


This operation was a humble present from the sons of the Islamic Resistance to the youths of the intifadah in Palestine

Hezbollah leader Hashim Safiy al-Din
"The government of Israel is extending a hand for peace to its neighbours, but the battle against terror will be carried out by both the right and the left," he said on Sunday.

Israeli forces fired 60 artillery shells at suspected Hezbollah positions in moutains on the Lebanese side of the border, and warplanes made Israel's second only air strikes on Lebanon since the withdrawal.

Defence Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer said Israel held Damascus and Beirut responsible for Hezbollah's actions and if they did not reign in the guerrillas, "they'll pay the price".

Anti-Syrian rally in Beirut
There is a growing feeling Syria should leave Lebanon too
He repeated Israel's demands that Lebanese government forces deploy along the border, which they have failed to do since Israel's withdrawal.

Tension has been especially high in Lebanon with the anniversary of the beginning of the country's long civil war in 1975.

Syrian troops have been stationed in Lebanon ever since intervening to support Christian militias against Palestinian and leftist forces in 1976.

The Christians later turned against Syria and welcomed the Israeli invasions into Lebanon, which developed into Israel's controversial 22-year occupation in the south.

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See also:

14 Apr 01 | Middle East
Fighting erupts over Shebaa Farms
13 Apr 01 | Middle East
Tensions high for Lebanon anniversary
03 Jan 01 | Middle East
Israelis shelled from Lebanon
25 May 00 | Middle East
In focus: Shebaa farms
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