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Posted: 3/30/2002 10:58:27 AM EDT
Israeli warplanes have raided suspected Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon after guerrillas targeted Israeli positions near the border. Hezbollah fighters are reported to have fired mortars and rockets on at least three Israeli positions in the disputed Shebaa Farms border area. Witnesses described heavy smoke rising from one Israeli military post after the attack. Israeli jets responded by firing several air-to-surface missiles and Israeli artillery reportedly shelled the outskirts of Hasbaya, a town on the Lebanese side of the border. There are no reports of casualties so far. Flashpoint It is the first Israeli raid on southern Lebanon since late January. A Hezbollah statement said the guerrilla attacks were part of the organisation's campaign to "liberate" the area from Israeli control. An Israeli army spokesman said it was a deliberate attempt to escalate the conflict. "Hezbollah wishes in a crude and violent fashion to heat up the area and provoke Israel," said Lieutenant Colonel Olivier Rafowicz. The Shebaa Farms have been a flashpoint since Israel pulled out of Lebanon in May 2000. Israel seized the farms in 1967 from Syria, but Lebanon claims the area as its territory.
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