TEL AVIV (Jun. 28)
Six residents of the Upper Galilee town of Kiryat Shmona were lightly wounded when Katyusha rockets fired by Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon hit several apartment buildings early Monday morning.
The injured Israelis, including two young children, were treated in the hospital for shock, cuts and bruises.
Three rockets landed on the apartment buildings at 5 a.m., while residents were still asleep.
Six buildings with dozens of apartments were damaged by the blast and flying shrapnel, and dozens of residents were moved temporarily to other homes so that repairs could be made to the buildings.
Army sources said the Katyusha rockets had come from bases north of the Israeli-controlled security zone in southern Lebanon.
The army’s commander of the northern front, Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Mordechai, toured the area and assured residents that the Hezbollah raid was unrelated to a helicopter gunship raid carried out earlier by Israel on Hezbollah bases north of the security zone.
But other military observers doubted his statement, pointing out that Hezbollah recently stated it had abandoned an older policy of indiscriminate rocketing of Israeli targets and would now launch Katyusha attacks only in retaliation for attacks made by Israel or the Israeli-allied South Lebanon Army.
Consistent with that policy, Hezbollah announced Monday that the missile attack on Kiryat Shmona had been “provoked” by the Israeli helicopter raid in which four rockets were fired at two empty houses in Zartar al-Sharkiya village 1.5 miles north of the zone Sunday evening.
Reports from Lebanon said a Lebanese army officer was seriously wounded in the raid.
Hezbollah gunmen reportedly fired anti-tank missiles at the helicopters, but missed them.
NO WAR OF ATTRITION SEEN
Hezbollah spokesmen in Beirut said the Katyusha attack was also carried out to mark the As-Shura Shi’ite festival commemorating the death of Imam Hussein.
Gen. Mordechai said the Katyusha attacks, the latest in a series after a relatively quiet period, were not a result of earlier Israeli raids and did not herald the start of a war of attrition.
Arab affairs experts expressed contradictory reasons for the renewal of Katyusha attacks.
Some said they were due to recent Israeli raids on Hezbollah bases inside Lebanon, while others thought they resulted from a split in the Hezbollah leadership, with some in favor of a resumption of “indiscriminate” attacks and others holding that they should be fired only in retaliation for attacks by the Israel Defense Force.
Monday’s missile attack followed last week’s assassination by Hezbollah gunmen of three residents of the security zone whom the Iranian-backed Shi’ite organization accused of being collaborators with the enemy.
Another Israeli helicopter raid was carried out June 25, when gunships attacked a base of Nayef Hawatmeh’s Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the Al-Bass refugee camp southeast of Tyre.