Hizbollah hits back after Israeli shells kill girls

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The Independent Online

of Reuters

Nabatiyeh, Lebanon - Hizbollah guerrillas fired rockets into northern Israel yesterday, striking back after two children in Lebanon were killed by steel darts in shells fired by Israeli gunners.

Hizbollah said the rockets, which caused no casualties, were in reprisal for the Israeli shelling of a south Lebanese town. The shelling on Saturday night killed two sisters aged 11 and 16 and wounded three of their brothers and sisters and a young cousin. The children were eating dinner on their balcony in Nabatiyet al-Fawqa, a suburb of the Shia market town of Nabatiyeh.

UN officials say "flechette" (dart) anti-personnel shells that hit them are banned by the Geneva convention. The UN has previously protested to Israel against their use in Lebanon.

They were fired by an Israeli tank from the top of a hill dominating Nabatiyeh. Police and residents said four shells exploded on or around the house, spraying 1.5 inch steel nails that killed Jihan and Silvana Bader. Their five-year-old brother Zacharia was in critical condition with steel nails in his head. Their brother Abbas, aged 10, sister Rabab, 15, and cousin Ali Hikmat Abbas, 10, were all slightly wounded.

Hizbollah has vowed to bombard Israel when Israeli occupation forces target Lebanese civilians. Sheikh Nabil Kaouk, a Hizbollah official in south Lebanon, warned Israel of a "hot summer" if it shelled civilians.

"Where does [Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin want to take the Israelis? Does he want resistance rockets falling on them every evening and morning and to have a hot summer hiding in their shelters, disrupting their economy and their tourist season?" Sheikh Kaouk said in a statement.

In another incident yesterday, an Israeli gunboat seized two fishermen and their boat near the southern port of Tyre. The gunboat fired machine- gun bursts at other fishing boats, hitting one but causing no injuries. Israeli gunboats have imposed a fishing blockade off south Lebanon for six months.