JERUSALEM (Aug. 10)
The violence that occurred over the weekend is the deadliest involving Israel since the Palestinians declared a cease-fire nearly six weeks ago.
And, most troubling to many Israeli officials, the violence occurred not only in the West Bank, but along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon as well.
The violence raised the specter of the collapse of the cease-fire — and the possibility that the Israel-Lebanon border could constitute a second front in Israel’s war against terrorism.
Haviv Dadon, 16, was killed when anti-aircraft shells fired by Hezbollah struck a town in northern Israel.
Israel retaliated for the shelling, in which four other Israelis in the town of Shlomi were lightly wounded, by firing at suspected Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon.
The incident followed a clash in the West Bank in which four Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed in a clash over the weekend in the West Bank. Staff-Sgt. Ro’i Oren, 20, died in a battle at a refugee camp in Nablus last Friday as his Israeli commando unit raided the camp while searching for a senior Hamas terrorist.
But while Israelis have become painfully accustomed to hearing about violence in the West Bank during the nearly three years of the Palestinian intifada, the incident that killed Dadon was surprising. Fatalities from Hezbollah attacks have become rare since Israel withdrew its forces from southern Lebanon in May 2000.
The death, and Israel’s retaliation, sparked a flurry of diplomatic activity.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan holding the Syrian and Lebanese governments responsible.
The letter accused Hezbollah of “seeking to escalate tensions” along the border “by purposefully and systematically carrying out numerous unprovoked cross-border attacks endangering both Israeli and Lebanese
But Israeli officials said they would make only a “moderate” retaliation, in an effort to keep tensions along the border from escalating further.
For its part, a Lebanese government spokesperson said his country would file a complaint with the U.N. Security Council over what it calls Israeli provocations, including violations of Lebanese airspace.
Tensions between Israel and Hezbollah have been high since a Hezbollah official was killed in a car bombing in Beirut earlier this month — an attack that Hezbollah blames on Israel. Israeli officials have not commented on that incident.
The fundamentalist Islamic group said it had been shooting at Israeli fighter jets flying over southern Lebanon, but Israeli officials denied that Israeli planes were in the area.
Sunday’s attack that killed Dadon was just one of several Hezbollah shellings to hit northern Israel over the weekend, but it was the only one that caused any serious injuries.
A 10th-grade student on summer vacation, Dadon was killed just as he ended his day’s work as a gardener for the local municipality. He was sitting with friends in Shlomi’s commercial center when a shell hit him and killed him immediately.
As a result of the shelling, the 6,000 inhabitants of the town were asked to spend part of Sunday evening in shelters for the first time since Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon.
In the Nablus incident, Oren was killed during an Israeli operation in the Askar refugee camp. Israeli soldiers were searching for a Hamas terrorist, Khamis Abu-Salem. As the soldiers closed in on Abu-Salem’s hideout, shots were fired from the building, killing Oren.
The soldiers fired back, killing four Palestinians, including Abu-Salem.