Hizbollah suicide bomber kills Israeli officer

ROBERT FISK

Beirut

PATRICK COCKBURN

Jerusalem

The danger of an Israeli assault on southern Lebanon increased dramatically last night after a lone Hizbollah suicide bomber attacked Israeli occupation troops in the south of the country, killing an officer and wounding seven other soldiers.

The attack - in which the Hizbollah man walked up to an Israeli motorcade in the village of Taibe and detonated explosives strapped to his waist - came only hours after the US ambassador to Israel urged the Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, not to strike into Lebanon.

According to Israeli press reports, Martin Indyk, the US ambassador, telephoned Mr Peres and asked for restraint while America asked the Syrian president Hafez al-Assad to restrain Hizbollah. Syria reportedly promised to calm the area, while denying that it controlled Hizbollah actions.

One report from Taibe last night said that Major General Amiram Levin, the Israeli army's northern commander, may have been wounded in the ambush, although there was no confirmation of this from Israel. The officers were driving in four cars - two military and two civilian - when the Hizbollah man struck. In retaliation, Israeli howitzers, artillery, tanks and helicopter gunships shelled Lebanese villages north of the occupied area.

In Beirut, a Hizbollah spokesman made it clear that the assault had been in revenge for the "anti-terrorist" summit in Egypt last week at which Mr Peres blamed Iran for the Hamas suicide bombings which killed 58 civilians in Israel. "In response to the Sharm el-Sheikh summit and to those who sleep on the doorsteps of the White House," - an apparent reference to the PLO leader Yasser Arafat - "a mujahed [holy fighter] attacked an enemy convoy today," the spokesman said over the Hizbollah's Voice of the Oppressed radio station.

While Iran has repeatedly said that it does not condone attacks on civilians, it has made no secret of its financial support for the Hizbollah.

Rafiq Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, had pleaded only a day before the suicide attack for Lebanon to be spared any Israeli reprisals for the Hamas bombings, condemning bellicose statements against Israel emerging from the Palestinian refugee camps as "unacceptable". At one point, he mentioned a television videotape of Palestinian children supposedly training in Sidon to be "human bombs" in preparation for suicide attacks.

"We oppose such childish actions and denounce this kind of behaviour," Mr Hariri said. "Palestinians are visitors [sic] here and they should behave accordingly ... In future, we will respond with measures that protect Lebanon's interests."

The fact is, however, that the Hizbollah are a Lebanese guerrilla group, supported - if sometimes half-heartedly - by the Lebanese authorities and assisted by the Syrians, whose 20,000 troops in Lebanon symbolise the control that Damascus exercises over the country. It was the first Hizbollah suicide bombing this year, but is unlikely to be the last.

Israel faces a dilemma in responding to Hizbollah attacks. It would like to punish the Lebanese guerrillas, but does not want to suffer further casualties. It also suspects that Hizbollah will have dispersed in expectation of reprisals. Mr Peres said: "We do not usually launch operations when there is an air of expectancy." He admitted that he had not authorised a strike last week because President Clinton was in Israel.

At the same time Mr Peres, who faces an election on 29 May, does not want to appear weak in the face of continuing Israeli casualties in Lebanon.

The guerrillas recently changed their tactics, according to Israeli sources. They say that Hizbollah started operating two or three well-trained companies inside the Israeli-controlled zone operating close to the Israeli border. In a series of carefully planned and successful actions they have killed 6 and wounded almost 30 Israeli soldiers in three weeks.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
film
News
people
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Manufacturing Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a rare opportunity for ...

Recruitment Genius: Conveyancing Fee Earner / Technical Support

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced Fee Earner/Techn...

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This law firm is seeking a happy, helpful and ...

The Jenrick Group: Production Supervisor

£26000 - £29000 per annum + Holidays & Pension: The Jenrick Group: Production ...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'