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Border Tensions with Israel are Easing, says Hezbollah

Officials with the militant group Hezbollah say tensions with Israel appear to be calming, following several days of border battles that resulted in the death of an Israeli teenager.

Increased tensions between Israel and Lebanon began last Friday following a Hezbollah rocket attack on the disputed Shebaa Farms, a border area occupied by Israel since 1967 but claimed by Lebanon.

Hezbollah, a group on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations, initially said the attack was in retaliation for a car bombing it blamed on Israel that killed a member of the militia group.

Israel responded with air attacks on several villages in southern Lebanon. Those attacks drew anti-aircraft fire that resulted in the death of an Israeli teenager.

Hezbollah spokesman Sheikh Hassan Ezz al-Din told VOA that last Friday's attack on Shebaa Farms was to defend Lebanese sovereignty.

Mr. al-Din says the purpose of the raid was to liberate Lebanese land because, he says, Shebaa Farms is on Lebanese soil that is occupied by Israel. He said it is Hezbollah's aim to defend the sovereignty of Lebanon against Israel's penetration of Lebanese air space.

Monday, Beirut was shaken by sonic booms after Israeli jets flew low over the capital. Lebanese President Emile Lahoud called the overflights air terrorism.

But according to Sami Baroudi, who heads the political science department at Lebanese-American University in Beirut, the sonic booms and the increased battles along Lebanon's southern border have not caused a great deal of concern among Lebanese citizens.

"The people sort of took it normally," said Mr. Baroudi. "It is not the first time that this happened. So, more or less, people did not react to it. So there is not really much of an impact of that air raid. About the situation in the south, people sort of get accustomed to these things taking place over Shebaa Farms. So there is not really this mood here that this is a prelude to something more serious. You do not feel the sense of urgency or something major is coming."

But such has not been the case politically. Lebanon has sent an urgent protest to the U.N. Security Council. On Monday, Lebanese Foreign Minister Jean Obeid began meetings with ambassadors of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to complain about what he called Israeli aggressions.

Israel has also complained to the Security Council over what it called Syria's continued support for Hezbollah.

The United States has warned both Syria and Lebanon to restrain their militias.

The United Nations has repeatedly warned Israel against penetrating Lebanese airspace and has warned Lebanon regarding the dangers of anti-aircraft fire.

Hezbollah officials in Beirut told VOA that the current situation appears to be calming, but warned there would be more anti-aircraft fire if Israeli jets fly over Lebanese territory.