Israel Shells Lebanon After Rocket Attack

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BEIRUT — Two rockets were fired from southern Lebanon toward northern Israel Saturday, triggering an Israeli response and raising fears of renewed hostilities on the tense border.

Lebanese leaders rushed to condemn the rocket attack and vowed not to allow southern Lebanon to become a launch pad for attacks against the Jewish state.

The brief cross-border exchange was the third this year. Israel and the militant group Hezbollah fought a brutal 34-day war in the region in 2006. More than 1,200 people in Lebanon _ most of them civilians _ and 159 in Israel died in the conflict.

It was not immediately known who fired the two rockets Saturday, and no group accepted responsibility.

One rocket slammed into a mostly Christian Arab village, causing minor injuries to at least one Israeli.

Lebanese security officials said the rockets were fired from the Mansouri and al-Qulaila areas near the coastal town of Naqoura. Officials with the United Nations peacekeeping mission in south Lebanon said the second rocket fell short, landing in Lebanon.

An Israeli army spokesman said a woman was injured and the military responded to the rockets. He would not specify the kind of response, but Lebanese security officials said Israel responded by firing at least six shells on villages in the area where the rockets had been launched.

No injuries were reported. The security officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military regulations.

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman condemned the rocket attack, saying he would not allow southern Lebanon to become "a rocket launching pad" against Israel. In a statement released by his office, Suleiman said the firing of rockets on Israel posed "a challenge" to the Lebanese government.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said in a statement that the rockets fired from south Lebanon "threatened security and stability" in the region and violated a U.N. resolution that ended the Israel-Hezbollah war. He also called Israel's retaliation "an unjustified violation of Lebanese sovereignty."

The Israeli military said the Lebanese government and military were responsible for preventing such attacks.

Saniora called on the army and U.N. peacekeepers to step up patrols and coordination in order to prevent such incidents.

The head of the 13,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force deployed along with Lebanese troops along the border, Maj. Gen. Claudio Graziano, contacted senior military commanders in Lebanon and Israel and called for "maximum restraint."

Troops from the U.N. force, known as UNIFIL, and the Lebanese army located the rocket launch site and are continuing intensive patrols throughout the area, UNIFIL said.

Israeli paramedics in Jerusalem said one rocket landed in northern Israel, causing minor injuries to three people who were taken to a hospital.

The rocket exploded in a mostly Christian, Arab village in the Galilee region, leaving a large groove in the ground next to a house. Drops of what appeared to be dried blood were sprayed on the pavement and shrapnel smashed through a kitchen window, filling the sink with glass.

"I was sleeping when I heard something like a bomb," resident Masad, who did not give his last name, told AP Television News. "I got up and saw something unbelievable _ a katyusha," referring to the type of rockets generally used by militant groups in south Lebanon.

Around half of the residents of Israel's hilly Galilee area are Arabs, most of them ethnic Palestinians.

The militant Hezbollah group has a large rocket arsenal but is not believed to have used them against Israel since their 2006 war. It has denied involvement in recent rocket attacks on Israel.

Hezbollah officials refused to comment on Saturday's rocket attack. But local television stations reported that Hezbollah denied it was responsible for the rocket firing.

Rockets from Lebanon have been fired into Israel on two occasions during Israel's Gaza offensive last month. Palestinian militant groups are suspected of launching them.

The Syria-based radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine _ General Command denied the group was responsible for Saturday's rocket attack and urged Lebanese authorities to find those who was responsible for the incident.


Associated Press Writer Diaa Hadid contributed to this report from Jerusalem.