Israeli Warplanes Launch Airstrikes in Lebanon

ByABC News

April 15 , 2001 -- Israeli warplanes on Monday launchedairstrikes on targets in Lebanon's central mountains, witnesses andpolice said.

The attack took place in an area where Syrian troops maintainradar bases and armor, witnesses and police said.

There was no immediate word on the targets, casualties ordamage.

The attacks came as a special U.N. envoy said Sunday that aHezbollah rocket attack that killed an Israeli soldier in adisputed border zone violated the U.N.-drawn boundary betweenLebanon and Israel.

Hezbollah guerrillas hit an Israeli tank with a Sagger missileon Saturday in the Chebaa Farms area, where the borders of Lebanon,Syria and Israel meet. Israeli warplanes and artillery retaliatedby blasting suspected guerrilla hide-outs on the edge of the ChebaaFarms.

The area remained tense Sunday. Israeli troops fired into theair to disperse a group of stone-throwers on the Lebanese side ofthe border, witnesses said.

About 150 sons and daughters of Hezbollah guerrillas wounded inthe fight against Israeli forces in south Lebanon joined hundredsof other Lebanese in hurling stones at two Israeli observationposts along the border, witnesses said. No injuries were reported.

Throwing stones at Israeli soldiers has become an almost dailyrite since the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon last May.

Staffan De Mistura, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's personalrepresentative for southern Lebanon, met Sunday with Prime MinisterRafik Hariri to relay U.N. concern over the Hezbollah attack.

Afterward, Mistura told reporters that the attack was "a clearinfringement of" a U.N. resolution under which Israel withdrewsouthern Lebanon last year. Following the Israeli withdrawal, theUnited Nations drew a border "blue line."

"The blue line as far as the United Nations is concerned isthere and has been trespassed in a violent way," Mistura said.

Israel accused Lebanon and Syria, the main power broker inBeirut, of responsibility for the Hezbollah attack and threatenedto retaliate.

The Chebaa Farms area was captured by Israel when it overran theSyrian Golan Heights in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Israel did notwithdraw from the area when it ended its 18-year occupation ofsouth Lebanon in May.

While Lebanon and Syria say Chebaa is Lebanese territory, U.N.cartographers who drew the Lebanese-Israeli withdrawal line afterIsrael's pullout say it belongs to Syria.

Hezbollah has vowed to continue fighting Israel until itwithdraws from Chebaa.

Al-Mustaqbal, a daily newspaper owned by Hariri, stronglycriticized the latest Hezbollah attack, saying it could harm theinterests of Lebanon, which is struggling to recover from thedevastating 1975-90 civil war.

"Was the decision to carry out the operation a wise decisionand did its timing serve Lebanon's supreme interests?"Al-Mustaqbal said in a front-page commentary Sunday. Hariri visitsthe United States later this month.

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