Violence against Israel flares anew in south Lebanon

JERUSALEM — An Israeli soldier was seriously wounded Wednesday by a Hezbollah roadside explosion in southern Lebanon.

The device — either a mine or a bomb — exploded when an Israeli patrol operating in the central sector of the security zone passed by.

The soldier, hit by shrapnel in the chest, was evacuated by helicopter to Israel. A bomb-sniffing dog working with the soldier was also wounded.

Israel Defense Force sources said the distance between other members of the unit and the explosion prevented further casualties.

Wednesday's explosion came a week after three IDF soldiers were killed and seven others wounded in clashes with Hezbollah in the security zone.

Israeli fighter planes carried out raids over the weekend on Hezbollah targets in Lebanon.

On Monday, Israeli forces thwarted an attack by an Islamic militant on a navy patrol near the Lebanese coast.

Israeli President Ezer Weizman, commenting on the hostilities north of Israel's border, called for a renewal of peace negotiations with Syria, which broke off in March 1996.

Speaking at a swearing-in ceremony for judges at his residence in Jerusalem, Weizman said the only way to bring an end to the hostilities in Lebanon is through a large-scale military operation, or serious talks with Damascus.

In the Knesset, Labor legislator Yossi Beilin reiterated his call for a new approach to dealing with the situation in Lebanon.

Beilin, a candidate for Labor Party chairman, said it is possible for the IDF to unilaterally withdraw from Lebanon and still defend the country's northern border.

He said that senior officers in the IDF northern command support this view.

Knesset member Ephraim Sneh, who also is vying for the Labor leadership, said the proposal is flawed and does not represent the view of the party.