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Israel Sees Hizbollah Attack Coming, Threatens Retaliation - 2003-10-28


Israel's defense minister says Lebanese-based Hizbollah guerrillas are planning a major attack in northern Israel and a top army general is threatening tough retaliation.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz says Israel has intelligence to suggest an attack, but he says the army is ready.

Earlier, the top commander for the northern front, Major-General Benny Ganz, said continuing attacks by Hizbollah are a dangerous factor and could result in a very forceful reaction from Israel.

Speaking on Israeli radio, Major General Ganz said that if Israel is forced to respond to further attacks Hizbollah, the Lebanese government, and neighboring Syria would be to blame.

Hizbollah guerrillas fired rockets and artillery rounds at several Israeli positions Monday in the disputed Shebaa Farms area along the Lebanese border. Israel responded with air strikes into southern Lebanon.

Syria has troops in Lebanon and wields a great deal of influence over its smaller neighbor. Syria is also one of Hizbollah's main backers, along with Iran, and Israel accuses Damascus of supporting other terrorist groups as well. It is a charge Syria denies.

Earlier this month, Israel struck at what it said was a terrorist training camp near Damascus. The raid followed a deadly suicide bombing in Israel's port city, Haifa.

Syria's Foreign Minister Farouk a-Shara told the British Sunday Telegraph newspaper that Damascus would strike back if attacked again, and he singled out Israeli settlements in the occupied Golan Heights as likely targets. On Monday, Lebanon's army said it had worked out a strategy with Syria to confront "enemy threats."

Secretary of State Colin Powell urged Israel and Syria to tone down the rhetoric. Mr. Powell said that these sorts of threats do not help anyone and just heighten tensions.

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