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Israeli Forces, Guerrillas Clash on Lebanon Border


Two Arab guerillas have been killed and an Israeli soldier wounded during a rare day of fighting on Israel's border with Lebanon. Israel retaliated harshly, after border communities came under attack.

Israeli warplanes attacked about 20 Palestinian and Hezbollah guerrilla positions in South Lebanon, in response to rocket attacks across the border. Residents of Israeli communities were ordered into bomb shelters, as Israeli troops and guerillas exchanged fire for hours.

The Islamic Jihad group claimed responsibility for the rocket barrage, saying it was retaliation for Israel's killing of a leader of the group and his brother in a car bombing in southern Lebanon on Friday. Israel denied involvement.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned that cross-border attacks will not be tolerated.

"We will use both air and ground forces to deliver a harsh blow to terrorist elements that try to disrupt life in the north," Mr. Olmert said.

Clashes on the northern border have been rare since Israel pulled out of Lebanon six years ago. But the area remains volatile. Islamic Hezbollah guerillas, who are sworn to Israel's destruction, control South Lebanon and are backed by Syria.

Israeli analyst Eyal Zisser says border skirmishes between Israel and Hezbollah carry the danger of escalating into a conflict between two regional powers-Syria and Israel.

"Nevertheless, I do not think that anyone is really interested in the eruption of a new circle of violence," said Eyal Zisser.

Therefore, U.N. peacekeepers were able quickly to arrange a cease-fire. In a sign of easing tensions, the army gave the green light for Israelis to emerge from the bomb shelters.

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