Israel jets launch revenge bombing raids on Lebanon

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Israeli war planes attacked deep inside Lebanon late last night, reprisal attacks for the death of five Israeli soldiers at the hands of Hizbollah guerrillas in the last 10 days.

Israeli war planes attacked deep inside Lebanon late last night, reprisal attacks for the death of five Israeli soldiers at the hands of Hizbollah guerrillas in the last 10 days.

Israel has repeatedly vowed vengeance for Hizbollah's successes, and it came around midnight local time, say witnesses - when its jets roared in and unleashed air-to-ground missiles at Baalbek in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

Residents reported several loud impacts and flashes that lit the night sky.

It was not immediately clear what was hit in the strikes, which were on the north-western edge of the city, about 60 miles north of the Israeli border, but reports said it was a power substation. The area was at once plunged into darkness. Israel is likely to say it was a Hizbollah stronghold.

Soon after the second sortie, ground gunners opened up with anti-aircraft fire at the Israeli jets, whose roar and missiles shattered windows and blew doors off their hinges as they raced across the rooftops of the Shiite Muslim-populated city. Last night northern Israel was bracing itself for retaliation from Hizbollah who in the past have responded by firing Katyusha rockets out of their strongholds in the occupation zone and across the border.

Shortly before the bombing began, carloads of people were streaming out of parts of northern Israel after Ehud Barak's security cabinet decided to launch a "harsh military" response against Hizbollah.

Israel had been threatening to attack for several days, after suffering repeated losses in the occupation zone - five soldiers in 10 days, and the second-in-command of its proxy force, the South Lebanon Army. But the pressure to act rose sharply on Sunday when Israeli TV stations screened unusually graphic footage of heavily bleeding wounded soldiers lying on stretchers after being caught in in a Hizbollah attack.

Last night, as his jets prepared to strike, Mr Barak set off for the north of the country, after announcing that "those who have harmed us will be harmed".

It was quickly clear that the threat was serious; it was soon soon followed by the sound of sirens along the length of the border area, and residents were ordered to take to bomb shelters, measures which usually signal Israeli air and artillery strikes. In the past they have been answered with Hizbollah Katyusha rocket attacks on northern Israel.

The bombing of targets within Lebanon, outside the occupation zone, is yet another blow to the prospects of reviving the near moribund peace talks with Syria, which snagged last month after Israel refused Damascus' demands to commit itself in advance to withdraw from all of the occupied Golan Heights.

Comments