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Annan: Israeli Commando Raid Violates Ceasefire


U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he is "deeply concerned" about an Israeli commando raid in eastern Lebanon Saturday, calling it a violation of a U.N.-backed ceasefire.

Mr. Annan said U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon have also reported several violations of Lebanese airspace by Israeli military aircraft since a U.N.mediated truce went into effect last Monday between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas.

In a statement late Saturday, Mr. Annan said all such violations of U.N. resolution 1701 endanger the fragile calm in the region and undermine the authority of the government of Lebanon.

Israeli officials deny the raid near the city of Baalbek was a violation of the truce, saying it was a defensive operation to stop Hezbollah from being re-armed. The officials said Syria and Iran were violating the ceasefire by breaking the arms embargo on Hezbollah.

U.S. officials noted the Israeli position, and said the U.N. resolution requires the international community to prevent Hezbollah from being re-armed by Syria and Iran.

Mr. Annan called on all parties to strictly respect the arms embargo, exercise maximum restraint and avoid provocative acts.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora criticized Israel's raid in the Bekaa Valley as a "naked violation" of the truce.

Defense Minister Elias Murr warned he may halt the deployment of Lebanese troops south of the Litani River unless the U.N. intervenes.

Israeli officials said one commando was killed in the operation and two others were wounded. Lebanese security forces said at least three Hezbollah guerrillas were killed.

Lebanese security officials say Israeli helicopters unloaded two vehicles carrying troops disguised as Lebanese soldiers. The officials say the Israeli soldiers then drove to the village of Boudai where they were confronted by Hezbollah fighters.

Boudai is home to a senior Hezbollah leader, Sheikh Mohammed Yazbeck. Israeli media say he may have been the target of the raid.

The unanimous Security Council Resolution 1701 calls on Lebanon and the U.N. interim force in Lebanon to deploy their forces together to help the Lebanese government gain sovereignty throughout its territory.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters

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