Bomb shelters open in Kiryat Shmona

JERUSALEM — Tension remained high in Kiryat Shmona this week as Israeli Defense Force troops ordered the opening of some public bomb shelters as a precaution, in case Hezbollah fires Katyusha rockets at the Galilee.

The order was given following a series of recent incidents in which a number of Lebanese civilians were killed or wounded north of the security zone, as a result of IDF and South Lebanese Army shelling of suspected terrorist bases.

Hezbollah often retaliates for such incidents with long-range mortar attacks on IDF posts along the northern border, with some of the shells exploding in the western Galilee and the Galilee panhandle.

Residents of Kiryat Shmona, the partner city of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, have been forced to live in bomb shelters many times before when Hezbollah launched bombing attacks on Israel's northern communities.

This week it was feared that Hezbollah would attempt to retaliate after IDF troops on Sunday accidentally killed a shepherd and severely wounded his young son during a bombardment of a suspected terrorist base in Lebanon.

Hezbollah's leader in south Lebanon, Sheik Nabil Kaouk, was quoted in Lebanese newspapers Monday as saying that the Islamic Resistance, Hezbollah's fighting arm, could not "stand by while innocent people are being hit."

"Their blood will not be wasted and is beyond any [other] considerations. The resistance will do its duty to deter the Zionist enemy from hurting civilians," Kaouk said.

Lebanese analysts said Kaouk's comments indicated that Hezbollah would retaliate for Sunday's incident, although it was not clear whether this would take the form of cross-border shelling and if so, when.

Senior sources in IDF's Northern Command, meanwhile, issued a stern warning to Hezbollah that any Katyusha rocket attacks on the Galilee would be met with a severe response.

The sources stressed that the IDF had not deliberately fired at civilians but at suspected terrorists, including in the case of the shepherd and his son.

No specific instructions were given to northern residents. Kiryat Shmona Mayor Haim Barbevai stressed that residents should proceed with their daily lives despite the increased tension.

Meanwhile, reports from Lebanon said IDF and SLA security personnel were continuing to arrest and detain residents of the zone suspected of collaborating with Hezbollah.

This follows the roadside bomb attack near the border fence last week in which two Golani Brigade soldiers were killed and two others wounded. It is believed that Hezbollah operatives received assistance from local residents in the attack, which occurred inside the zone, opposite Kibbutz Misgav Am.