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Monday, January 19, 2004

Hezbollah attacks northern border of Israel

One Israeli soldier killed, one wounded, by anti-tank missile
DEBKA: Official confirmation just received that one Israeli soldier killed, second injured in direct hit by Hizballah anti-tank missile of their D-9 near border Moshav Zarit Monday. Attack prompted cross-border exchange of fire between IDF and Lebanese Hizballah. Border tension is shooting up as Israeli defense leaders consider reaction. Last year, Israel warned Syria and Lebanon that next Hizballah attacks would elicit immediate Israeli air force response.

JPost: One soldier was killed and another seriously wounded in an attack on an IDF D9 bulldozer, which was deactivating a minefield along the Lebanese border Monday afternoon.

Hizbullah fired an anti-tank missile at the bulldozer Monday evening near the northern border, scoring a direct hit on the vehicle.

According to reports, the bulldozer was hit at about 5pm while clearing roadside bombs 700 meters west of Moshav Zarit on the northern border.

The seriously wounded soldier was air-lifted to Rambam hospital in Haifa. Tzi Ben-Ishai, deputy director of the hospital said the soldier was hit by shrapnel in various parts of his body, Israel Radio reported.

OC Northern Command Gen. Benny Ganz called the incident "very serious". Ganz said that those north of the border with Israel [Hizbullah and Syria] should be "concerned."

"Another sad incident by a terrorist organization in southern Lebanon, and another indication that the government of Lebanon is not fulfilling its international obligations to deploy to the border - UN resolution 425," Ganz said.

Hizbullah is believed to receive support from Iran and Syria, which occupies Lebanon and stations about 20,000 troops in the country.

A senior aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Raanan Gissin, said Syria was responsible for the attack.

"We have no intention of escalating the situation," Gissin told the AP, but Syria must "stop supporting terrorist organizations and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure that it built in Lebanon."

Channel One reported that a senior defense official said an IDF response was a matter of "when, not if." It was also reported that senior IDF officers were meeting to coordinate a response. Meanwhile, a high state of alert has been enforced thoughout the border region.

Channel two news reports that PM Ariel Sharon convened his inner cabinet in order to plan an Israeli response that will not lead to further escalation.

A Hizbullah press release transmitted on Hizbullah's Al Manar TV moments after the event said that members of Hizbullah's military wing, the Islamic Resistance at 4:35 PM fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli bulldozer that crossed the border into Lebanon near Birkat Rish.

The IDF denied that the vehicle had crossed over the border, channel One reported.

The roadside bombs were discovered two weeks ago, but are only being cleared now for operational and weather reasons, the radio reported.

"Holy warriors of the Islamic Resistance destroyed a hostile vehicle that violated the border line in the town of Marouahine in southern Lebanon," Al Manar said.

The broadcast did not give the type of vehicle or mention Israeli casualties.

The incident comes a few hours after Hizbullah fired anti-aircraft shells at IAF warplanes flying over Lebanese airspace.

With AP