Fears rise of new cycle of Lebanese bloodshed

Israel's long-expected blitz on Lebanon - a day of air attacks that hit Beirut for the first time in almost 14 years - had last night produced near-stalemate as the Hizbollah militia threatened retaliation against Israel.

Rafiq Hariri, the Lebanese Prime Minister, warned that the "vicious circle of violence" which left at least four dead and six wounded across Lebanon, could run out of control unless the Israelis, who said their raids were in retaliation to an earlier Hizbollah Katyusha attack, resolved to withdraw their occupation troops from the south of the country.

By evening, the Israeli assault seemed to have achieved little. Of the four known dead, three were civilians - one a 27-year-old woman killed in her car by a missile-firing Israeli helicopter near the Jiye power station - while an air raid on a supposed Hizbollah office outside the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek merely destroyed the municipal rubbish dump.

Despite Israel's much- trumpeted "destruction" of a "terrorist operational nerve- centre", the Hizbollah's headquarters in Beirut - the high-rise Majlis al- Shura council building - appeared untouched, although militiamen prevented reporters from moving less than 200 metres from the building.

The only military casualty was a Lebanese soldier manning a checkpoint south of the city of Tyre who was killed when the Israelis bombed an army anti-aircraft unit which had been firing at their helicopters.

The Israelis later warned the Lebanese army to "stay neutral" in their attack on Hizbollah but the Lebanese Minister of Defence, who declared the dead soldier a "martyr", ordered his brigades in southern Lebanon to fire at Israeli forces in the air or on the ground.

Presumably aware of the civilian casualties that would be wrought by the air assault, an Israeli army statement warned during the day that "civilians who live next to Hizbollah activist (sic) centres and homes may be hurt." But the radio station of Israel's proxy South Lebanon Army militia said electricity stations and water systems may be attacked, suggesting Israel's real intention was to threaten Lebanon's government with disaster unless it disarmed the "Islamic Resistance" movement in southern Lebanon.

But Mr Hariri said last night that attacks on Israelis inside southern Lebanon would continue unless Israel abided by UN Security Council resolution 425, to withdraw all Israeli forces from southern Lebanon.

Syria called the attacks "an act of aggression that would damage the Middle East peace process." What caused deep concern for Mr Hariri, however, was not so much the casualties but the assault on Beirut. Not since the hot August days of the Israeli siege of 1982 when their enemies were the PLO - now their new allies - have the Israelis attacked the Lebanese capital.

By the standards of 14 years ago, yesterday's missile-firing helicopters were a pin-prick, but they were intended - as both the Lebanese and the Syrians knew - to carry a message: further attacks on Beirut could be less restrained, more bloody and longer-lasting; so why don't the Lebanese and Syrian governments disarm the Hizbollah who are causing so many casualties among Israel's occupation troops in the south? As Mr Hariri made clear last night, neither Beirut nor Damascus planned any such action.

In 1993, after Israel responded to the killing of eight occupation soldiers with an air bombardment that slaughtered 123 Lebanese civilians, an agreement brokered by the US and Syria between Israel and the Hizbollah stipulated that neither side would attack the other's civilians unless the other did so first. Last month, the Israelis apologised for killing two young civilian men in the village of Yater for fear that the Hizbollah might fire Katyusha rockets over the border. Last weekend, a boy was killed by a bomb in the neighbouring village of Bradchit; Hizbollah's belief that the explosives were command-detonated by the Israelis prompted the Katyusha attack which wounded 13 civilians in Galilee and provoked yesterday's counter- counter-retaliation by Israel.

The Lebanese and Syrians realise Shimon Peres, the Israeli Prime Minister, is under pressure prior to the 29 May elections, to show he can tame the Hizbollah. But the militia's determination to go on fighting the Israelis inside Lebanon means the Israelis are likely to face retaliation in response to their own retaliation, a cycle of mutual revenge which, as Mr Hariri said, can become self-generating.

Hizbollah and security sources in southern Lebanon suggested last night that further Katyusha attacks would be made against Israel in response to today's raids. Rumours in Beirut spoke of a planned Israeli commando raid on the capital.

Crisis countdown

11 April - Israeli helicopter gunships blasted Hizbollah guerrilla targets in Beirut's southern suburbs yesterday, the first Israeli raid on the Lebanese capital in nearly 14 years.

Following are the main events in the latest round of violence between Lebanon's pro-Iranian Hizbollah (Party of God) and Israeli forces.

4 March - Hizbollah guerrillas kill four Israeli soldiers in Israel's south Lebanon occupation zone. One Hizbollah guerrilla killed.

10 March - One Israeli soldier killed and four wounded in Hizbollah bomb attack in occupation zone.

14 March - Five Israeli soldiers wounded in Hizbollah raid.

20 March - Hizbollah suicide bomber kills one Israeli soldier in attack near border with Israel.

30 March - Israelis shell south Lebanon villages killing two civilians. Hizbollah fires Katyusha rockets into northern Israel; no casualties.

8 April - Bomb blast kills Lebanese boy and wounds three people in a guerrilla-held south Lebanon village.

9 April - Hizbollah blames Israel for bomb blast and guerrillas fire Katyusha rockets into northern Israel, wounding 36 people.

10 April - One Israeli soldier killed, three wounded in Hizbollah shelling of their outpost in zone.

Suggested Topics
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Business Project Manager

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project Manager job vaca...

Business Analyst (Agile, SDLC, software)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor