Crossfire fuels security zone debate

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JERUSALEM — Both Israel and Lebanon have drawn criticism for last week's air strikes and rocket attacks across Israel's northern border.

Meanwhile, an Israeli soldier was killed and two others wounded by friendly fire in southern Lebanon on Wednesday. The dead soldier was Staff Sgt. Ohad Zach, 19.

A five-nation group denounced Lebanon on Sunday for its Katyusha rocket attacks on northern Israel last week. According to the Israeli army, the international committee determined that the rocket barrage was a violation of the understandings reached at the end of Operation Grapes of Wrath in April 1966, when Israel launched a campaign aimed at ending Hezbollah attacks.

The monitoring group, comprised of the United States, France, Israel, Syria and Lebanon, was established following the 1996 crisis to investigate complaints submitted by the two bordering nations and prevent escalation of tensions.

The committee also condemned Israel for the outcome of a recent military strike that had been aimed at an Hezbollah training base, but left a Lebanese mother and six of her children dead. Israel has apologized for those deaths, which it called accidental.

And in Kiryat Shmona, a woman who was six months pregnant with twins at the time of the Katyusha attacks lost her second fetus over the weekend due to shock.

Keren Hevroni was staying with her husband and the rest of her family at her parents' home in Kiryat Shmona when the building sustained a direct hit by a rocket. She was knocked to the ground.

Hevroni was taken to the hospital with severe pains, and doctors said she was in labor. One of the fetuses died within 20 minutes of the attack on Wednesday of last week; the other died Saturday.

Hevroni was one of 16 Israelis injured, most not seriously, in Hezbollah's barrage of Katyusha rockets on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week.

The army estimated that 20 to 30 rockets fell across the Galilee, damaging 250 apartments and other buildings and bringing down electric lines.

The attacks came in retaliation one day after Israeli air strikes killed the Lebanese mother and her children in a farmhouse near Janta village in the northern part of Lebanon's Beka'a Valley.

"I said clearly yesterday that what happened was a mishap; there was no intent to hit civilians. But the purpose of the Hezbollah attack was to hit civilians," noted Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai.

Lebanon lodged a protest with the monitoring group over the deaths. According to the Israeli army, the monitoring group recognized that the deaths of the Lebanese family were accidental.

The border crossfire only further fueled the controversy over Israel's 9-mile-wide security zone in southern Lebanon.

Labor Knesset member Yossi Beilin, a leading advocate for an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, said the attacks were further proof that the security zone does not prevent attacks on northern Israel. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency contributed to this report.