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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
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

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit