Israel: Beirut will pay for Galilee attacks

jerusalem | Israel has issued a stern warning to the Lebanese government to prevent terrorist actions from its territory — regardless of the identity of the perpetrators — or suffer the consequences of severe retaliation.

The warning followed the discovery on Tuesday, Nov. 16, of the remains of a Katyusha rocket on open land near the industrial zone of Shlomi, in the western Galilee.

The rocket was one of two fired from Lebanon on Monday, Nov. 15. The second apparently fell into the sea.

It was the second rocket to hit in roughly the same area in the past two weeks.

A Hezbollah drone also infiltrated of Israeli airspace. The unmanned aircraft apparently flew over parts of the Galilee for some time without being detected by Israeli forces.

It was a propaganda coup for Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who later vowed that the organization had many such drones with which to bombard Israel.

Hezbollah, however, was quick to deny any responsibility for the Katyusha attack. Similar denials were issued by the Fatah organization in Sidon region.

Reports from Lebanon said a previously unknown group calling itself the Ghaleb Awali Martyrs Brigade, after a senior Hezbollah official who was killed in a car bombing in Beirut several months ago, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Israel lodged an official protest with the United Nations, and U.N. officials on Nov. 16 visited the site where the Katyusha exploded.

Shlomi Local Council chairman Gabby Na’aman said he had made it clear to the United Nations that it was also responsible for ensuring peace and quiet on the Israeli side of the border.

“I made it clear that residents of Shlomi demand the right of all people to be able to live in peace and quiet and not have rockets fired at them,” he said. “It is inconceivable that every week or so, Hezbollah or some Palestinian organization fires a Katyusha or so-called anti-aircraft shell at us. This time we were lucky and the rocket exploded without causing any casualties or damage.”

In August 2003, a Hezbollah anti-aircraft shell exploded in the heart of Shlomi, killing Haviv Dadon, age 16.

“People are asking whether this marks a turning back of the clock; whether they should prepare bomb shelters and security rooms or whether they should allow their children out in the evening or keep them close by,” Na’aman said.

“For the time being, I have instructed schools and kindergartens to keep bomb shelters open and ready, although for the most part life in the community has returned to normal and we hope it will stay that way.”

Na’aman said he had written to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to demand that the Israel Defense Forces immediately respond to the latest attack.

“Experience has shown that rather than causing an escalation, an immediate response has curtailed terrorist activity. What we want from the government is to ensure that we are able to lead normal lives in peace and quiet,” he said.

Israeli Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya’alon said Nov. 16 that if the incidents did not cease a price would be extracted.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said that such attacks could not be ignored and Israel had to consider its response. Similar comments were expressed by cabinet member Ehud Olmert, who said Israel would not accept a state of affairs in which its northern border once again became an active front.

The head of the IDF’s western Galilee region, Col. Chen Livni, in a briefing with reporters in Shlomi on Nov. 16, said that as a result of the rocket attack several changes had been made in the deployment and preparedness of troops in the region.

“Our mission is to provide security to northern residents, and that is what we are doing. We won’t be dragged into an escalation and we will not act in accordance with the rules of the game dictated to us by the other side,” he said.