From Jerusalem Post Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World: Nov. 21, 2005 0:16 Updated Nov. 21, 2005 19:44 - "Hizbullah shelling, gunfights rock northeast" Israel By ARIEH O'SULLIVAN . . .
Following an afternoon of escalating violence along the northeastern border between Israel and Lebanon, residents of the north from the Mediterranean to Mount Hermon were ordered into bomb shelters Monday evening for the first time in years.
This latest announcement followed mortar and Katyusha barrages against the northern Galilee towns of Kiryat Shmona and Metulla during which one house in Metulla was directly hit by a Katyusha. While family members were in the house at the time, no injuries were reported. Extensive damage was caused to the building.
Until that point, the heavy mortar barrages launched Monday by Hizbullah against Israel had been confined to the more sparsely populated sector of Mount Dov, to the east. Residents of kibbutzim along the border had already been ordered into shelters an hour earlier. In response to the latest shelling, IAF aircraft bombed a building used by Hizbullah as a headquarters in southern Lebanon, as well as a number of roads.
Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz, speaking from his headquarters in Tel-Aviv, said the Hizbullah attack on the northeastern border throughout the afternoon was a coordinated combination gunfire, mortar fire and kidnap attempt. "Syrian and Iranian interests are behind this event. Their interest is to escalate the situation in the north to alleviate the pressure off Syria," Mofaz said.
. . . .Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim, speaking on Channel 1 TV, reiterated Mofaz's analysis that Hizbullah's actions were aimed at releasing pressure from Syria - which is implicated in the assassination of former Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri. He said that the battle with Hizbullah has spread to the entire northern front.
Earlier Monday, soldiers killed four Hizbullah terrorists who were trying to infiltrate Israel ... (and). . .prevented two attempts by terrorists to kidnap soldiers at army positions along the border. Eleven soldiers were reported wounded in Monday's events, with two reported to be in serious condition.
. . .Earlier in the afternoon, the guerrillas fired on five Israeli positions in the Sheba Farms.
In retaliation, Israeli warplanes fired missiles at suspected guerrilla hideouts about 500 meters from the Lebanese-Israeli border, Lebanese security officials in south Lebanon said.
. ..Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convened an urgent situation assessment with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and top IDF brass on Sunday night to discuss the troubling Hizbullah behavior. The situation with Syria and Lebanon was also discussed, government sources said. According to the sources, Hizbullah has been detected taking unusual steps near Mount Dov, which intelligence officers here interpret as preparations by the Iranian-backed group to stage a "quality attack," like kidnapping soldiers.
Shortly after the meeting, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz issued a public warning to Lebanon to take responsibility for its country. . . ."Hizbullah is scrambling things up on the northern border at this moment. Hizbullah understands that it is playing with fire, but this is because the firefighters in Lebanon aren't working. These firefighters are the government of Lebanon and no one else." Halutz also said that Syria was aiding Hizbullah both directly by arming them and indirectly by "synchronizing" their actions.
AP contributed to this report.