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Wednesday, 3 April, 2002, 02:25 GMT 03:25 UK
Israel raids Hezbollah positions
Israeli soldier scans border with Lebanon
A border escalation would be "very serious", says the UN
Israeli warplanes have attacked suspected Hezbollah guerrilla positions in southern Lebanon.

The raids were in apparent retaliation for attacks on Israeli army positions in the disputed Shebaa area.

Tension has been rising on the border recently, sparking concern that a second front could open up for Israel.

The raids came as Israel demanded that the United Nations take action to prevent new guerrilla attacks.

A foreign ministry spokesman warned that Israel was effectively putting Syria and Lebanon - which back Hezbollah - on notice that it would act against border provocations.

Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon nearly two years ago, after two decades of occupation.

The UN has endorsed Israel's withdrawal as complete. However Lebanon, Hezbollah and the Syrians claim the Shebaa area is Lebanese territory.

Katyusha incident

Lebanese officials said Israeli jets fired at least three rockets on targets south of Kfar Chouba village late on Tuesday after Hezbollah guerrillas fired mortar rounds and rockets at Israeli positions in the Shebaa area close to the Lebanese-Syrian border.

The clashes halted after about 80 minutes.

Smoke bellows from a hilltop in the Shebaa area after firing on Saturday
The Shebaa area has been a flashpoint since Israel pulled out of Lebanon
Hezbollah said one of its fighters had been killed "while carrying out his task in the framework of holy war".

Earlier on Tuesday there were also reports that a Hezbollah had fired a Katyusha rocket into northern Israel.

However Hezbollah, Lebanese security services and UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon all said they knew nothing about the incident.

Hezbollah 'deploying on border'

At the UN in New York, the Israeli Government delivered a letter to Secretary General Kofi Annan, warning that recent attacks against Israeli civilian and military targets could have "alarming consequences on the stability of the region."

The letter from Foreign Minister Shimon Peres urged Mr Annan to intervene immediately and persuade the governments of Lebanon and Syria to take steps to prevent violations of Israel's northern border.

Israel says that in the past two weeks, armed groups have launched several attacks on Israeli military and civilian targets.

Mr Peres also said there is growing evidence that in recent days Hezbollah have started deploying armed men along the "blue line" monitored by the UN separating Israel and southern Lebanon.

A spokesman for Mr Annan said UN monitors are still trying to confirm the reported missile attacks from southern Lebanon.

He said the concern is that a second front of fighting might open up in what is already a very dangerous situation.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Paul Wood in Jerusalem
"Most of the main centres of population on the West Bank are now occupied"
See also:

01 Apr 02 | Middle East
Gunmen fire on Israel from Lebanon
01 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel extends West Bank grip
31 Mar 02 | Middle East
Israel warns Syria over Lebanon
12 Mar 02 | Middle East
Six Israelis die in ambush
13 Feb 02 | Middle East
Lebanon hears case against Sharon
24 Jan 02 | Middle East
Lebanon's cocktail of hatreds
18 Mar 02 | Middle East
Timeline: Lebanon
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