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Israel, Lebanon exchange fire
Published on 28 Oct. 2009 10:28 PM IST
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A Katyusha rocket fired from Lebanon hit northern Israel on Tuesday night without causing casualties, prompting Israel to retaliate with artillery, sources on both sides said. The attack, which was not immediately claimed, was the latest incident in growing cross-border tensions, and an Israeli military spokeswoman laid ultimate blame on the Beirut government. The rocket landed in open ground east of the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona and started a fire but caused no serious damage, sources there said. A security source in Lebanon said eight rockets fired from Israel then hit near the border village of Hula. There were no immediate reports of casualties. At about the same time, witnesses in Kiryat Shmona said Israeli artillery retaliated by firing on southern Lebanon. An Israeli military spokeswoman later confirmed that "artillery had opened fire on the sector from which the Katyusha rocket was fired." She said the army considered the attack as "serious, and considers that responsibility for it falls on the Lebanese government." UN peacekeeping troops and the Lebanese army cut off the road to Hula and searched the area, an AFP correspondent said. Yasmina Bouziane, spokeswoman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, said an inquiry has begun. "UNIFIL immediately launched an investigation," she said, adding that the force had deployed additional troops in the area in coordination with the Lebanese army. There were no reports of casualties on either side, Bouziane confirmed. Hula residents said they heard a rocket being fired from the brush outside the village shortly before the area was itself targeted. While no group claimed responsibility, Israel will have its eyes on Shiite movement Hezbollah, which fought a devastating 34-day war with Israel in 2006 and which has its stronghold in south Lebanon. A rocket exploded in a village there on October 12 in the home of activist Abdel Nasser Issa. The Israeli military released footage from a drone that it said showed rockets being removed from the building. But Hezbollah's Al-Manar television broadcast pictures it said showed men outside a garage putting a rolled up metal shutter into a truck, watched by a Lebanese soldier and two UN troops. Israel's military said the blast "proves again the presence of weapons forbidden in southern Lebanon" under UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war. The conflict killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers. Resolution 1701 called for the removal of weapons in southern Lebanon from the hands of everyone except the Lebanese army and other state security forces. Israel has repeatedly accused Hezbollah of rearming, and an Israeli military spokesman has claimed the group has "dozens of arms caches containing hundreds of rockets." Following the October 12 incident, Israeli President Shimon Peres accused Hezbollah of turning Lebanon into a powderkeg. "It's not Israel that is endangering Lebanon, but rather Hezbollah, just as Hamas is endangering the Palestinians. Tuesday's attack on Israel was the fourth from Lebanon this year, and both it and the retaliation were condemned by acting prime minister Fuad Siniora in Beirut. "We condemn the use of Lebanese territory to launch Katyusha rockets across Lebanese borders and the aggressive Israeli retaliation on areas of the south and Lebanese lands," he said. On September 11, at least two rockets fired from the southern village of Al-Qlaileh hit Israel without causing casualties but triggering artillery fire. A group linked to Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility. In February, Israeli artillery bombarded Al-Qlaileh in response to a rocket attack which lightly wounded several Israelis. And in January, during Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip, four rockets fired from Lebanon hit northern Israel, wounding two women.

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