- BEIRUT (Reuters) - Israeli
jets and artillery hit targets across south Lebanon on Saturday in retaliation
for the most extensive guerrilla attacks on the Jewish state's armed forces
since they withdrew from the area two years ago.
- The clashes, which have expanded beyond the foothills
of the Golan Heights, could mark a change in the low intensity conflict
between Israel on one side, and Lebanon's Hizbollah guerrillas and their
Syrian backer on the other.
- Just before the clashes erupted, Syrian troops in Lebanon
pulled out from positions nearest to the Israeli border, continuing a redeployment
apparently designed to limit the impact of any Israeli attacks.
- Lebanese and Israeli security officials said Katyusha
rockets and mortar rounds fired from Lebanon hit Israeli military positions
in Israel proper and in the occupied Golan Heights on Saturday.
- Israeli security officials accused Hizbollah of launching
the attacks, but a Hizbollah official denied the claim, saying the party's
attacks on Saturday were limited to Israeli troops occupying Shebaa Farms
in the foothills of the Golan.
- Israel Radio said two children were hurt when salvoes
hit Ghajar, a village on the Golan southwest of Shebaa Farms that Israel
occupied in 1967.
- Israel retaliated with heavy shelling of the Wazzani
river basin facing Ghajar. There were no reports of casualties.
- Israeli jets struck the edges of Lebanese villages facing
Shebaa, including a road linking the villages. Israeli guns also pounded
- Lebanon has blamed exiled Palestinian groups for firing
rockets at Israeli targets in the last few days. U.N. peacekeepers said
they had found two Katyusha rockets aimed at Israel in the village of Kawzah
hours before the attacks.
- HIZBOLLAH STEADFAST, SYRIA PULLS OUT
- Hizbollah fighters, who are backed by Syria and Iran,
have stepped up a campaign to drive Israeli troops from the foothills of
the Golan Heights in response to Israel's military invasion of Palestinian
cities in the West Bank.
- A Reuters correspondent said Syrian soldiers pulled out
from their position on the Awali River at the entrance to the port city
of Sidon, 25 miles west of Shebaa Farms.
- Trucks carrying soldiers and their gear were seen heading
from al-Awali toward the Bekaa Valley, which borders Syria and contains
the bulk of its 20,000-strong garrison in Lebanon.
- The Syrian army, which first intervened in Lebanon in
1976 to support Christian militiamen in their conflict with Lebanon's leftists
and Muslims, backs up the political clout Damascus still wields over Lebanese
- On Wednesday Syria began evacuating mostly exposed positions
in Mount Lebanon after Israel warned the governments of Lebanon and Syria
to stop Hizbollah attacks on Shebaa.
- Hizbollah drove Israel from south Lebanon in 2000 after
a 22-year-long occupation. Its fighters have since kept up attacks on Israeli
troops in Shebaa Farms.
- Israeli jets raided Syrian targets in Lebanon twice in
2001 after Hizbollah attacks in the Shebaa Farms area.
- Israel captured Shebaa Farms from Syria in 1967 along
with the rest of the Golan Heights. The United Nations says Shebaa is Syrian
land and does not recognize Lebanon's claim to it.