Hizbullah shelled Israeli positions on Monday and Israel
responded with air and artillery, as the tone of the rhetoric
also rose among Israel, Syria and Lebanon. US Secretary of
State Colin Powell called on Syria and Israel to ease
tensions and tone down their rhetoric after a Syrian official
threatened to retaliate against further Israeli attacks.
On Tuesday Israel Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said that
Israel has intelligence that the militant Lebanese-based
Hizbullah organization is planning a large-scale attack in
northern Israel. Mofaz said that the attack would be "more
significant" than the shelling that the group has carried out
on the Israel-Lebanon border in the past two days.
Major General Benny Ganz, commander of the northern front,
said on Tuesday that continuing cross-border escalation
spurred by Hizbullah in south Lebanon is a "dangerous factor,
which may make the situation such that we may have to act
with very, very strong force."
Syrian and Iranian-backed Hizbullah fired rockets and
artillery rounds at the two IDF positions in the Har Dov area
named "Gladiola" and "Hadas," near the border between Lebanon
and Israel on Monday. Hizbullah also fired an antitank
missile at an IDF base outside of the Har Dov region for the
first time since April 2002.
Security sources in Jerusalem said the rocket fire hit at
least one outpost and struck the outskirts of several others
in the border area that Israel calls Har Dov and Lebanon
calls the Shebaa Farms region. The UN told Lebanon that the
area is not part of Lebanon but the Hizbullah refused to
accept that determination. Israel maintains that Lebanon has
no claim to the area, but concedes that Syria might.
Israel responded to the rocket fire with two air strikes on
the edges of the Lebanese border village of Kfar Shouba and
shelled the outskirts of several other villages. Israeli
helicopters were deployed and artillery batteries fired at
Powell said the threat heightened tensions strained by
Israel's Oct. 5 air strike on what it called a "terrorist
camp" near Damascus -- its deepest raid into Syria since the
1973 Middle East war. Pilots returning from the strike
reported big secondary explosions, confirming that the area
was not abandoned as the Syrians claimed in their statements
in response to the Israeli strike. The Israeli raid on the
Syrian target followed a suicide bombing that killed 22
people in an Israeli restaurant in Haifa.
In a statement issued in New York, Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN
special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said
he "strongly deplores" the attacks on both sides.
Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara told Britain's
Sunday Telegraph newspaper that Syria would strike
back and could hit Israel settlements in the Golan Heights if
Israel launched another such strike.
Israeli officials said the remarks reflected Syrian
"embarrassment" at what strategic experts see as Syria's
relative military weakness. Syria did not react militarily to
the recent Israeli strike in any way while it was taking
Powell's statement followed an announcement by the Lebanese
army that said Beirut had agreed with Damascus on ways to
confront "enemy" threats. The Lebanese army said that it and
Syria's armed forces had looked into ways to "confront
challenges and enemy threats to which both Syria and Lebanon
"A unified formula was reached on this issue," it said,
giving no details.
Syrian Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Hasan Turkmani, who
earlier this month put the Syrian armed forces on alert
against any new Israeli attack, held meetings on Monday with
Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and top military