Netanyahu delivers his message to Hizbollah

ISRAEL AND Lebanon began burying their dead yesterday after a night of bombardment and counter-bombardment that killed at least seven Lebanese and two Israelis and wounded dozens more.

Both sides of the volatile border were reported quiet during the day, but Israeli and Lebanese leaders threatened massive retaliation if the other renewed hostilities. The overnight exchanges were the most severe escalation in the war of attrition between Israel and the Hizbollah Shia militia since Israel's Grapes of Wrath offensive three years ago.

"The Israel Defence Forces will not agree to be victimised by salvos of Katyusha rockets fired at Israeli civilians," the chief of staff, Lieutenant- General Shaul Mofaz, told reporters. "Hopefully, the message of our actions has been understood. We have no wish for escalation, but if Hizbollah resumes its murderous attacks, we shall retaliate a second time in force."

Israel attacked after weeks of mounting frustration, among the army and residents of the northern border, during which Hizbollah humiliated Israeli troops and their surrogate South Lebanese Army. Thursday's Katyusha barrage on Israel towns and villages was the last straw, according to the Israeli military.

In Kiryat Shmonah, a favourite Katyusha target where two civilian relief workers were killed, one resident, Nissim Azulai, insisted: "The time has come to find a solution. Things can't go on like this."

The military complained that they were hamstrung by the absence of a government willing to take decisions in the waiting period between Benjamin Netanyahu's defeat in the mid-May elections and prime minister-elect Ehud Barak's completion of his new coalition.

For the first time in six months, Israeli warplanes bombed strategic targets deep inside Lebanon - two power stations serving Beirut, a communications centre south of the capital, a guerrilla base under a Syrian umbrella in the eastern Bekaa valley, and road bridges linking Southern Lebanon to the north.

The air force was delivering a calibrated message to Hizbollah, the Lebanese and Syrian governments. Mr Netanyahu said after an emergency meeting of his caretaker Cabinet on Thursday night: "Both Hizbollah and the Lebanese government must realise that Israel will respond forcefully to any attack against the residents of northern Israel. If there is no quiet in northern Israel, there will be no quiet in Lebanon."

The targets were selected to inflict damage on the Lebanese infrastructure, while limiting civilian casualties. Israel acknowledges that Hizbollah (the pro-Iranian "Party of God") is nobody's stooge, but it contends that Lebanon and its Syrian overlord can restrict the guerrillas' freedom of operation. The air strikes were a warning of the consequences if they do not.

Mr Barak, who has promised to pull the 1,500-strong Israeli garrison out of the South Lebanese occupation zone within one year, distanced himself from the Israeli bombardments. Since he has not yet taken office, he insisted that Mr Netanyahu must decide.

The Labour leader is eager to resume peace negotiations with Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians. He evidently prefers not to be branded a warmonger before he even gets to the table. Aides hinted that he regretted the air strikes. Yet he could have applied the brakes if he had so wished. Earlier this month he blocked a multimillion-dollar air force order for American F-16 jets because he wanted to be involved in the choice between them and the rival F-15. The caretaker Defence Minister, Moshe Arens, meekly complied.

Some observers are suggesting that Mr Netanyahu was handing his successor a poisoned chalice in Lebanon. But it is just as likely that Mr Barak, a hawkish retired general who campaigned on his security record, was happy to let the lame-duck Likud team do the dirty work for him.

The escalation in the north has cracked a whip over the coalition negotiators. Mr Barak now recognises the urgency of establishing an authoritative administration. The first deals were signed early yesterday with two main partners, the National Religious Party and the Russian immigrants' Yisrael B'aliyah. Others are expected to fall into place next week.

Two of Mr Barak's most vociferous opponents in the May election - the right-wing Likud and the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox Shas - are still negotiating, but their prospects of joining thecoalition are diminishing.

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 tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Bianca Miller in the final of The Apprentice
tvMark Wright and Bianca Miller fight for Lord Sugar's investment
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
News
news
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
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
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
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
News
i100
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
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 Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
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: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

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'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick