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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK
Lebanese militia attacks Israeli positions
Hezbollah attacking Israeli position in disputed Shebaa Farms area in April 2002
Hezbollah said the attack was part of its "holy struggle"
Three Israeli soldiers have been wounded after the Lebanese Hezbollah militia opened fire on Israeli positions in the disputed Shebaa Farms region, Israeli army radio reported.

The army said the attack was a sustained barrage of mortar shells and anti-tank missiles that hit several Israeli military posts in the Shebaa Farms, on the border between Lebanon and the Golan Heights which Israel seized from Syria in 1967.

Israeli troops responded by shelling an area near the Lebanese village of Kfar Shuba and firing rockets from helicopters on suspected Hezbollah positions.

"I want to make it clear to the Syrians and the Lebanese that they are playing with fire," Israeli Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said in a statement.

There were no immediate reports of casualties on the Lebanese side, local police said.

It was the first clash since April, when Hezbollah rebels - Lebanese Shia Muslim militant group backed by Syria and Iran - carried out a series of attacks in the area.

Territorial dispute

Hezbollah claimed the attack, saying it had scored direct hits on the Israeli positions.

Israeli troops survey the border with Lebanon
Israel says the farms are part of the Golan Heights, which it occupied in 1967

"In the context of our ongoing holy struggle, the Islamic Resistance... has attacked positions of the Zionist enemy... in the Shebaa Farms," it said in a statement.

Mr Ben Eliezer described the attack - which lasted for an hour-and-a-half - as part of continuing attempts to provoke Israel.

Hezbollah has clashed with Israeli troops in the Shebaa Farms since Israel withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000, ending a 22-year occupation.

But Hezbollah - along with the Lebanese and Syrian authorities - claims the Shebaa Farms are part of Lebanon and Israel's withdrawal will not be complete until the farms are vacated.

Israel says the farms are on the Syrian side of the border and so are part of the Golan Heights, which it has occupied since 1967.


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