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Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 20:25 GMT 21:25 UK
Soldier killed in South Lebanon
Lebanon violence
A girl inspects her father's car after the shelling
By Hilary Andersson in South Lebanon

One soldier from the Israel-allied South Lebanese Army has been killed, and four other men have been injured, in heavy fighting in the occupied zone of South Lebanon.

Two of the injured were from the Israeli Defence Forces.

Tensions in the area have escalated in recent days following Israel's formal announcement to the UN that it plans to withdraw its troops from the zone by July this year.

The sound of shells landing has echoed across the occupied zone of South Lebanon throughout the day.

Some roads inside the zone have been cut off because of the shelling.

Hezbollah

There is a growing body of opinion that the Islamic movement, Hezbollah, which has been fighting for many years to oust Israeli troops from Lebanon, is keen to step up the pressure on Israel prior to the planned July withdrawal.

This could be partly to make the pull-out look like their military victory, and partly because Syria's disapproves of the unilateral withdrawal, which does not solve the wider problem of the future of the Golan Heights.

Israel is also keen to show that it will not stand for an escalation of the war because after the pull-out it will be left with no buffer zone to protect its own citizens living along the northern border.

The occupied zone is a small strip of land made up of deep valleys and ravines.

Most of the Lebanese civilians who live here hope that the Israeli troop pull-out will spell the end of this 22-year-old war and not the beginning of another.

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See also:

09 Apr 00 | Middle East
Hezbollah strikes northern Israel
06 Apr 00 | Middle East
Lebanon's terms for Israeli pull-out
06 Apr 00 | Middle East
Lebanon on UN agenda
05 Apr 00 | Middle East
Israel releases Lebanese prisoner
03 Apr 00 | Middle East
Israel's allies to stay in Lebanon
01 Apr 00 | Middle East
Syria dismisses Lebanon troop idea
05 Mar 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Leaving Lebanon
05 Jan 00 | Middle East
The Golan: Territory and security
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