JERUSALEM, July 16 (JTA) — Israel warned of a stiff response if Hezbollah gunmen continue to violate a ban on launching attacks on Israeli forces from civilian areas in southern Lebanon. “I hope that they will continue to respect the understandings on fire from within villages, and I warn and stress that we will need to exercise self-defense for residents of the north and Israeli soldiers,” Brig. Gen. Yom Tov Samia, Israel’s top commander in the Galilee, said in remarks broadcast on Israel Radio. He was speaking following reports that mortars or rockets fired from southern Lebanon landed in northern Israel early Wednesday. Israeli forces were conducting searches for missile fragments after explosions were heard. On Tuesday, Hezbollah fighters fired several Katyusha rockets at an Israeli army base on the Israeli-Lebanese border. One of the rockets fell into northern Israel, landing in an open field in the western Galilee. No one was injured. Earlier this month, a series of Katyusha rockets slammed into northern Israel following intense fighting between Israeli forces and Hezbollah gunmen in southern Lebanon. At that time, too, the rockets caused no injuries. Israel and Hezbollah agreed in an April 1996 U.S.-brokered understanding not to target or launch attacks from civilian areas. The understanding came in the wake of a 16-day offensive by Israel in southern Lebanon that sought to stop Hezbollah’s Katyusha rocket attacks on northern Israeli settlements.
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