TEL AVIV Ñ Hizbullah launched an intensive rocket barrage against
Israel while, simultaneously, Lebanon and Syria commanders were meeting in Beirut to discuss military cooperation against the
Hizbullah carried out a two-hour rocket and mortar attack against
Israeli military positions along the border with Lebanon and Syria on
Monday, Middle East Newsline reported. Several of the 107 mm rockets and 35 mm mortars landed on or near
two Israeli military positions and one soldier was injured in the first
Hizbullah rocket strike since August.
Israeli officials said the Hizbullah attack was carried out under
Syria's orders and was expected. They pointed out that during the border
shelling Syrian Chief of Staff Gen. Hassan Turkmani met Lebanese military
commanders in Beirut to discuss military cooperation against Israel.
On Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Hizbullah was
expected to follow up its rocket strike with what he termed a major
terrorist attack in Israel. Mofaz did not elaborate.
Israel's military responded with artillery fire and combat air strikes
and a Hizbullah rocket launcher was destroyed. Later, Hizbullah issued three
separate versions to explain the attack, including that the
Iranian-sponsored group struck to mark the Islamic fast month of Ramadan.
"It's very difficult to determine intentions by the other side," Yuval
Steinitz, chairman of the Israeli Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee, said, "particularly when we are talking about a dictatorial
regime such as Syria."
United Nations monitors deployed along the Israeli-Lebanese border said
Hizbullah fired mortars and missiles towards Israeli positions in the Shebaa
plateau. The UN said Israel responded with artillery and aerial bombing.
The Lebanese-Syrian Military Committee released a statement that pledged
cooperation between Beirut and Damascus against Israel. The statement said
the Lebanese and Syrian militaries would defend against Israeli aggression
and were studying the tactics of the Israeli military.
"A unified formula was reached on this issue," the statement said.
Western diplomatic sources said Lebanon's military has been ransacked by
Syrian forces in the Beirut area and no longer maintains a credible army,
navy or air force. The Lebanese military has not been allowed to deploy near
the Israeli border, an area dominated by Hizbullah.