Israeli tanks head for Lebanon

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Hizbollah guerrillas defied stern Israeli warnings and fired a fresh volley of rockets into Israel early this morning as long columns of Israeli tanks and artillery rumbled towards Lebanon. Lebanese troops and Hizbollah guerrillas went on alert as the armoured column advanced.

The first rockets had slammed into Israel yesterday, hours after Israeli jets blasted a pro-Iranian Hizbollah training camp in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, killing dozens of guerrillas. It was the bloodiest Israeli air raid for seven years. The Israeli army had cautioned the guerrillas they would be 'hurt many times harder' if they resumed the rocket attacks.

Ehud Barak, Chief of the Israeli army, warned that Israel's military response to fresh barrages would not be deterred by the presence of Syrian troops near Hizbollah bases in Lebanon. 'I am sure this is not the last time we will have to act and send the army's long arm to strike at Hizbollah, even in areas under Syrian control,' Mr Barak said. 'In my view the Syrians understand Hizbollah is not immune to attack anywhere.'

Israeli officials said there was no special significance in the timing of yesterday's raid, explaining that it was part of the on-going attempt to smash 'the terrorists', as Israel describes those who take up arms against it.

However, it does seem highly probable that the raid was timed to divert Israeli public attention from the uncertainties of the Gaza- Jericho peace deal. Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, fears that his historic decision to allow an autonomous Palestinian entity to germinate on Israel's doorstep in the Gaza Strip and Jericho may be interpreted as weakness by many in Israel. A massive bombing raid by Israeli aircraft is a sure way to remind the voters that Mr Rabin is tough.

Israel wreaks vengeance, page 16