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The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"Exchange of fire went on for hours"
 real 56k

Sunday, 1 July, 2001, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Israel attacks Syrian radar station
Smoke from rocket attack at Shebaa farms on Friday
Hezbollah rocketed Israeli positions in the Shebaa farms area
Israeli warplanes have attacked a Syrian radar station in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, injuring three Syrian soldiers and a Lebanese, according to Syrian police.

An Israeli government statement said the air raid was in retaliation for a rocket attack by Hezbollah guerrillas two days ago in which two Israeli soldiers were wounded.

map of area
"We cannot let Hezbollah attack without reacting," said deputy defence minister, Dalia Rabin-Filosoff speaking on public radio.

Hezbollah responded quickly to the air raid, firing on Israeli positions in the disputed Shebaa Farms area where Friday's violence took place.

The militant group has vowed to keep fighting Israel until it leaves the area, which it occupied during the 1967 war.

Missile attack

Two Israeli warplanes each fired one missile at the facility in the Bekaa valley, near Rayak, 60 kilometres (35 miles) north-east of Beirut, the police said.

The three Syrians wounded in the attack were manning the position.

A Lebanese conscript at a nearby road block was hit by flying debris, the police said.

Syria maintains 35,000 troops in Lebanon and is regarded by Israel as the real power in the country.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah leader
Nasrallah: Israel is playing with fire

"Syria continues to encourage terrorism against Israel," an Israeli army spokesman said.

"Israel will not tolerate attacks from Hezbollah, which is sponsored by Syria, and will use all the means at its disposal to assure the security of its residents along the northern border," the spokesman said.

The Bekaa Valley is dotted with Syrian radar, anti-aircraft and tank positions.

After the air raid, a Lebanese officer reported that "more than 30 mortar bombs and rockets fell on four Israeli positions in the Shebaa Farms".

The attack, confirmed by Israel, was the heaviest since Hezbollah began operations in the sector on 7 October.

Israeli helicopter gunships returned fire on Hezbollah positions and its warplanes have reportedly been overflying the Lebanese capital Beirut and the coastal city of Sidon.

Retaliation warning

The movement's spiritual leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah was holding a meeting in the Bekaa region at the time of the raid.

"Israel is playing with fire. We will not stand idly by and will react in an appropriate manner," he said.

Syria and Lebanon had warned Israel not to retaliate for Friday's attack.

A joint statement released on Saturday said: "Israel will be held responsible for the consequences of any further retaliation on the entire region, world security and peace".

Israeli warplanes last attacked a Syrian radar station in the Bekaa valley on 16 April after a similar Hezbollah strike, killing a Syrian soldier.

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See also:

29 Jun 01 | Middle East
Israel 'stops' Lebanon overflights
24 May 01 | Middle East
Israel downs Lebanese plane
24 May 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Lebanon one year on
30 Jul 00 | Middle East
UN spreads out on Lebanon border
26 May 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Lebanon's fragile peace
23 May 00 | Middle East
Q & A: Leaving Lebanon
16 Apr 01 | Middle East
Syria: The power in Lebanon
25 May 00 | Middle East
In focus: Shebaa farms
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