JERUSALEM, July 17 (JTA) — The five-nation group monitoring last year’s cease-fire in southern Lebanon has warned both Israel and Hezbollah against continued violations of the accord. Both sides had agreed in the April 1996 U.S.-brokered understanding that ended Operation Grapes of Wrath not to target or launch attacks from civilian areas. The understanding came in the wake of Israel’s 16-day offensive in southern Lebanon that sought to stop Hezbollah’s Katyusha rocket attacks on northern Israeli settlements. Thursday’s strongly-worded statement from the monitoring group was issued after the committee met to discuss complaints lodged by both Israel and Lebanon. Lebanon had cited the killing earlier this week of three Lebanese civilians by Israeli shelling; Israel had cited a series of Katyusha rockets Hezbollah fired at northern Israel. On Wednesday, Israel warned of a stiff response if Hezbollah gunmen continue to launch attacks on Israeli forces from civilian areas. “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. His remarks followed 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. Hezbollah said the rocket attacks came in reprisal for the deaths of the three Lebanese civilians after Israeli shelled a village in southern Lebanon. Earlier this month, a series of Katyusha rockets slammed into northern Israel following intense fighting between Israel forces and Hezbollah gunmen in southern Lebanon. At that time, too, the rockets caused no injuries.
Lebanon monitoring group cites Israel and Hezbollah