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Israeli warplanes attack in southern Lebanon
( 2003-09-04 09:50) (Agencies)

Israeli warplanes attacked the outskirts of a south Lebanese village on Wednesday after Hizbollah gunners fired anti-aircraft rounds at Israeli jets in Lebanese airspace, Lebanese and Israeli security sources said.

"Israeli planes attacked the western part of Lebanon from which a cannon belonging to Hizbollah fired shells which hit the village of Shumra in western Galilee," Israeli army spokesperson Sharon Feingold said. "The planes destroyed the cannons."

The planes struck the outskirts of Telal al-Bayad, just north of the Lebanese border town of Naqoura, Lebanese security sources said.

Hizbollah confirmed that the Israelis hit one of its positions but said none of its fighters there was harmed.

"The Islamic Resistance reserves the right of response to this aggression and knows well how to choose the appropriate time and place for the response," a Hizbollah official told Reuters.

"The Islamic Resistance considers the raids as acts of aggression," he added.

The strike, the second in less than a month, came hours after Hizbollah fighters, who are backed by Syria and Iran, fired anti-aircraft rounds at Israeli jets flying in Lebanese skies.

On August 10, Israeli troops and jets blasted the outskirts of Lebanese villages after a Hizbollah anti-aircraft shell killed an Israeli teenager in northern Israel.

The death was the first since the Jewish state withdrew its troops from southern Lebanon in May 2000 after a 22-year occupation under pressure from Hizbollah guerrillas.

Since the withdrawal, Israeli planes have regularly flown into Lebanese skies, drawing Hizbollah barrages.

The United Nations, which has repeatedly warned that Israeli overflights could escalate into a more serious conflict, views both the flights and Hizbollah's reaction as violations of the terms of Israel's pullout.

Lalit Tewari, the commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, expressed "deep concern" over Wednesday's raid and said UNIFIL would follow up the matter closely.

Tensions surged between Hizbollah and Israel after Hizbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah threatened late last month to kidnap more Israelis unless there was progress on stalled prisoner swap talks.

But Israel late last month handed over the bodies of two Hizbollah members who died fighting Israeli forces in southern Lebanon, in what analysts said could be a precursor to a prisoner exchange.

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