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Hezbollah Calls Rockets Fired into Upper Galilee Retaliatory

Violence from southern Lebanon is continuing to escalate again forcing residents of northern Israel into bomb shelters.

Katyusha rockets fired by the Islamic fundamentalist Hezbollah slammed into northern Israel before dusk Sunday, causing brush fires but no casualties.

Hezbollah said the rocket firings were in retaliation for an attack Saturday in which artillery fired by an Israeli tank killed two girls in the southern Lebanese town of Nabatiya.

Israel’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Amnon Shahak, said Saturday’s shelling had been a mistake.

“Yesterday we fired at the wrong place in Nabatiya, but that happens in the kind of war we are fighting there,” Shahak told Israel Television on Sunday.

Shahak said although the Katyusha attacks were part of a policy recently adopted by Hezbollah “our mistakes also contributed to Sunday’s attacks.”

Prime Minister and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin had reportedly criticized the tank fire at the weekly Cabinet meeting earlier Sunday, terming it a “needless mistake.”

Other ministers also were reported to have spoken harshly against the army’s action, which resulted in unintended casualties among Lebanese civilian and a further escalation of the tense border situation.

On Sunday, the Israel Defense Force ordered people in the Upper Galilee into air raid shelters — just 30 minutes before the latest rocket attack. Israel Radio reported that 27 rockets struck the Galilee.

Civilians also had spent Saturday night in shelters, but the anticipated counterattack by Hezbollah failed to materialize.

Then, after the funeral for the Nabatiya victims, the salvos came.

The pro-Iranian Hezbollah said it fired the rockets “in response to the latest Zionist massacre that hit a southern family in [Nabatiye] whose bodies were torn by steel darts.”

The Israeli army said it was investigating the use of darts, which are banned by international convention on warfare.

Reporters on the scene spoke of large brush fires as a result of the attack on Israel, but no damage to property.

Some local residents, interviewed on Israeli radio and television, gave voice to feelings of frustration and anger, demanding firm action against the Hezbollah or else an end to the tit-for-tat tactics pursued by the IDF and its southern Lebanese ally, the South Lebanon Army.

Last week, Shahak issued a stern warning to Hezbollah, appearing to threaten a new IDF sweep beyond the security zone if the rocket firings did not stop.

His threat came after four IDF soldiers were injured by a roadside bomb in the southern Lebanon security zone. Hezbollah took responsibility for that attack. The IDF and the fundamentalist Islamic group also exchanged fire in the same area.

Katyushas last landed in northern Israel June 23 after a Lebanese woman was killed in what Hezbollah said was an Israeli bombardment of a village.

A French cook at an Israeli resort was killed in the June barrage.

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