Hizbollah rejoices in Israel's revenge

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Only a week after the Hizbollah's leader, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, displayed parts of a dead Israeli soldier killed in southern Lebanon and offered to exchange them for guerrilla bodies in Israeli hands, the Israeli army has killed Nasrallah's eldest son during a confrontation in the south of the country.

In an unprecedented announcement, the Hizbollah themselves announced that 18-year-old Hadi Nasrallah was shot along with two of his colleagues near the zone that Israel occupies north of its border. Within 24 hours, two more Israelis were killed in apparent retaliation.

Sayed Nasrallah addressed a rally of 2,000 of his supporters on Saturday afternoon, expressing what he called his "pride" in his son's death.

"I thank God and praise him for his ultimate grace and kindness in choosing a martyr from my family," he said.

The Hizbollah emphasised that no special attention would be paid to Hadi Nasrallah's body in the list of dead guerrillas whom they want returned to Lebanon for burial.

First news of the man's identity and fate was brought to Beirut by the lone Hizbollah survivor of the raid against one of Israel's military positions inside Lebanon.

But Nasrallah later identified his son from a videotape taken of two of the Hizbollah dead in the mortuary at Marjayoun hospital north of the Israeli frontier.

The two Israelis killed on Saturday morning were blown up by a roadside bomb left by the Hizbollah east of Tyre. One of the soldiers died instantly and the other died later from his wounds.

Yesterday's explosion followed just two days after the Israelis attacked the Lebanese army east of Sidon - killing six of its soldiers - in retaliation for the Lebanese army's role in the virtual annihilation of an Israeli unit attempting to ambush the Hizbollah near Sidon last month.

Lebanese troops are now under orders to fire at any Israeli soldiers inside the country and Israel's revenge - though it might have been expected - surprised the army.

According to Lebanese military sources, an Israeli helicopter fired a missile at a Lebanese armoured personnel carrier, wounding the soldier inside. As his five comrades were trying to carry him to safety the helicopter reportedly returned and fired another missile at the rescuers, killing all of them along with the wounded man.

The latest Israeli deaths bring their fatalities in their south Lebanon occupation zone to 33 this year, 12 of them in the bungled raid 10 days ago and two more burned to death by a brush fire started by Israel's own artillery shells. A 43-year old Lebanese woman and her baby were killed when the Israeli raiders were ambushed and six other Lebanese civilians - including a baby - were killed last month when Israel's own proxy militia fired shells for an hour into the centre of Sidon.

If there is a message in all this, it is a simple one: that the conflict in southern Lebanon is once again in danger of exploding into all-out war.