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Thursday, 18 May, 2000, 23:10 GMT 00:10 UK
Lebanon fighting 'heavy'
Hezbollah guerrillas at prayer
Hezbollah guerrillas at prayer
By Hilary Andersson on Israel's northern border

At least seven people have been wounded in heavy fighting between Israeli forces and the Islamic militant group, Hezbollah, in south Lebanon.

The fighting comes as Israel steps up its preparations for its planned troop withdrawal from south Lebanon.

Shelling could be heard sporadically from within Israeli-occupied south Lebanon on a day of intense fighting.



Two Israeli soldiers and one soldier from the Israeli allied South Lebanese Army were injured in attacks by the Hezbollah militias.

The Israeli air force also carried out four strikes, some of them outside the occupied zone off south Lebanon, on suspected Hezbollah targets.

At least four Lebanese civilians were hurt.

This has been the heaviest fighting in more than a week and comes as Israel steps up its preparations for the final withdrawal of all of its troops from south Lebanon.

The Israeli army has already evacuated two outposts within the occupied zone as part of the first phase of the troop pullout.

Electrified fence

After 22 years of occupation, Israel has pledged to complete its withdrawal by the first week of July.

On Israel's northern border now, intensive work is under way to replace the old border fence between Israel and Lebanon with a tall electrified fence.

Other fortifications are being prepared along the border to protect civilians in Israel from any cross-border attacks after the troop pullout.

All this clearly signals that the Israel Government is intending to go ahead with the withdrawal, even if the fighting escalates further over the coming weeks.

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See also:

14 May 00 | Middle East
Hezbollah raises stakes in Lebanon
07 May 00 | Middle East
Lebanese seek UN protection
06 May 00 | Middle East
Arab League condemns Israeli raids
05 May 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Risky strategy exposed
09 Feb 00 | Middle East
Q & A: Southern Lebanon
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