Syrian soldiers die as Israeli jets bomb Hizbollah bases: Attacks by gunmen in Lebanon prompt retaliatory raids

AFTER two weeks of threats, Israel yesterday moved into action in southern Lebanon, unleashing a series of air raids against enemy militia positions which left six Syrian soldiers and at least nine civilians dead. In reply to Israel, Hizbollah fired several Katyusha rockets at northern Israeli settlements, killing at least two Israeli civilians in Qiryat Shemona.

As Warren Christopher, the US Secretary of State, who is due in the region on a peace mission this week, called for 'restraint', Israeli helicopter gunships and bombers were last night continuing to attack suspected strongholds of Hizbollah and Palestinian militias. Mr Christopher has warned that escalation of violence in southern Lebanon could damage the faltering peace process.

Yesterday's raids were a direct retaliation by Israel against Lebanese gunmen who in recent weeks have escalated attacks against the Israeli army which, with its proxy force, the South Lebanon Army, occupies a nine-mile-wide strip of southern Lebanon. Israel accuses Iran of controlling Hizbollah's gunmen, and Syria of aiding them. Syria, Lebanon and local militiamen accuse Israel of illegal occupation of south Lebanon.

To avoid any serious military conflict with Syria, Israel is normally careful to avoid hits close to the bases in the Bekaa Valley housing 40,000 Syrian troops. Three Syrians were killed when Israeli planes - apparently accidentally - hit their position during a raid on a Hizbollah stronghold. Other Syrian troops then fired SAM-7s at the planes, which returned and attacked the source of fire, killing two more soldiers.

It is believed to be the first time Israeli forces have killed Syrians since the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. There was no response from Damascus last night.

Israeli planes also hit Palestinian militia positions south of Beirut, before helicopter gunships targeted a series of villages and a Palestinian refugee camp.

As the raids were under way yesterday, the Israeli political and military establishment was eager to draw attention to the success of the operation. However, despite the publicity given to the attacks, there was clearly no desire to step up the operation by sending in ground forces. The air raid appears to have been chosen as the best way of appeasing Israeli public opinion, increasingly concerned at a lack of retaliation, while limiting Israeli casualties and containing international criticism. Palestinian and Hizbollah gunmen have killed six Israeli soldiers and wounded 11 this month, inflicting the heaviest casualty toll for nearly three years.

There was no firm evidence that the strikes had damaged Hizbollah operations. Civilian casualty figures were expected to rise.

In a typical cat-and-mouse sequence, Israel insisted after a first round of raids that it had no desire to escalate the attacks as long as the Hizbollah did not retaliate. Within hours Hizbollah had fired rockets towards northern Israel, and Israel attacked again.

Hizbollah said its forces had been fully mobilised, and last night northern Israel was bracing for another counter-offensive.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
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

IT Technician

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are current...

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Permanent post for a Key stag...

Geography Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Geography Teacher urgently ...

SEN Teachers and Support Staff

£50 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an SEN Teacher or L...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering