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Islamic Guerillas in Lebanon Attack Israeli Positions - 2002-04-10

Islamic guerrilla fighters fired rockets and mortars from Lebanon into northern Israel Wednesday. Israel struck back against targets in Lebanon, prompting fears that the fighting with the Palestinians could broaden into a regional conflict.

Islamic guerrilla fighters in southern Lebanon attacked three Israeli military positions along the northern frontier of the Jewish State.

The attack Wednesday by the Hezbollah, or Party of God, marked the 11th straight day that the Iranian backed group has bombarded Israeli positions.

Israeli warplanes struck back, pounding suspected Hezbollah positions inside Lebanon, but there was no immediate report of any casualties.

The United States has expressed "grave concern" over the escalating violence and the United Nations has called on Lebanon to prevent more attacks against Israel.

The appeals from the international community come amid mounting speculation that Hezbollah is attempting to open up a "second front," while Israel continues its military campaign inside Palestinian areas in an effort to halt terrorism.

Hezbollah, which has vowed to help Palestinians fighting Israeli forces in the West Bank, has been concentrating its attacks in the Shebaa Farms region on the northern frontier over the past week.

Israel seized the area from Syria during the 1967 Middle East War, but Hezbollah insists that the land is sovereign Lebanese territory.

The Israeli Defense Minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said he blames Syria, the main power broker in Lebanon, for allowing Hezbollah to freely launch attacks against the Jewish state.

He warned Syrian President Basher Assad that he is "playing with fire" and that Israel could not show restraint indefinitely in the face of continuing attacks along its northern border.

Mr. Ben-Eliezer's statement was being seen as an indication that Israel might fire at Syrian targets inside Lebanon, if the hostilities are not halted.

Syria has some 30,000 troops stationed inside Lebanon, and recently re-deployed them further away from the border of Israel.