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Sunday, 6 February, 2000, 18:29 GMT
Barak threatens reprisals

Hezbollah has boasted of its success against Israel

The Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, says Israel will hit back at Hezbollah but will keep in mind the country's overall strategic interests.

Middle East
The warning followed a bomb attack in southern Lebanon in which one Israeli soldier was killed and at least six others were wounded.

Mr Barak, speaking after a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman, said that the army would retaliate against anyone who tried to hit Israeli targets in southern Lebanon.

"We will retaliate for any attack coming from south Lebanon and if it is Hezbollah, then we will hit Hezbollah," he said.

President Barak: Pressure to act
Israeli warplanes staged two retaliatory bombing raids against suspected guerrilla hideouts on Sunday.

Correspondents say Mr Barak is under intense domestic pressure to take strong military action because Hezbollah has killed at least five Israeli soldiers in recent days.

On Friday, Israeli forces narrowly failed to assassinate a senior guerrilla leader in a missile attack by a helicopter gunship.

Six civilians, including a woman and her two children, were wounded.

Colonel Hashem: Assassinated by Hezbollah
The attack was thought to be in reprisal for the killing of Colonel Akel Hashem, deputy head of the pro-Israel militia, the South Lebanon Army, earlier in the week.

Israel has blamed the escalation of violence on Syria, but Damascus says it has nothing to do with the fighting.

Speaking in Hebrew, Mr Barak denied suggestions that Israel was holding back from stronger action so as to safeguard its struggling peace talks with Syria.

But he did say the government was taking Israel's overall strategic interests into account.

We are determined to leave Lebanon in July this year within an agreement. I believe there could be an agreement and this is the main road towards peace in the Middle East.
President Ehud Barak
He also said Israel was still determined to withdraw from southern Lebanon by July as part of a peace agreement with Syria.

"We will not go at this stage into details of what might happen if July comes closer and there is no agreement. I believe that there could be an agreement, and this is the main road towards peace in the Middle East," he said.

The mounting tensions come at a time when there has also been a breakdown in Israel's negotiations with the Palestinians.
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See also:
06 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Hezbollah bomb kills Israeli soldier
06 Feb 00 |  Middle East
No peace crisis says Israel
04 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Civilians wounded in Israeli attack
02 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Hezbollah: 'Peace with Israel impossible'
15 Dec 99 |  Middle East
Analysis: The Lebanon factor
25 Jun 99 |  Middle East
Q & A: Southern Lebanon

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