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Cease-fire monitors blame Beirut for attack on Israel

JERUSALEM, Dec. 17 (JTA) — Israel has welcomed a decision by a cease-fire monitoring group that blames Beirut for last Friday’s Katyusha rocket attack on northern Israel. The cross-border attack was the first since an April cease-fire ended the Israel Defense Force’s Operation Grapes of Wrath against Hezbollah forces operating in southern Lebanon. The attack, which caused no injuries or property damage, was launched from an area under control of the Lebanese government. Israel protested the attack earlier this week, telling the five-nation monitoring group that it was an outright violation of the cease-fire. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Amnon Shahak applauded the monitors’ decision during a meeting Tuesday of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He said that immediately after the rocket attack, Hezbollah issued a denial of any involvement in the assault. He also told parliamentarians that Israel’s more pressing concern was not a renewal of Katyusha attacks, but the planting by Hezbollah of roadside explosive devices in areas where IDF troops operate in the security zone. A Bedouin tracker with the IDF was recently killed by such a device in the security zone. Shahak said the devices were being activated by remote control as Israeli patrols passed by. He said that most of the time, IDF troops detected the devices before they detonated, noting that in one instance, searches of a particular area turned up 27 such explosive devices. Fighting erupted in southern Lebanon over the weekend after the Katyushas were fired across the border. On Saturday, Hezbollah gunmen ambushed an Israeli convoy in the eastern sector of the security zone. The unit included the head of the Israel Defense Force liaison unit in southern Lebanon, Brig. Gen. Eli Amitai. Amitai was lightly wounded from shrapnel. Another member of the unit was also lightly wounded. The forces in the convoy immediately returned fire, killing one of the gunmen. In subsequent searches in the area Sunday, IDF forces found a wounded Hezbollah gunman and killed him. Also Sunday, Israeli jets rocketed Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon. The IDF spokesman said all planes returned safely to base.