Diplomatic efforts are under way to cap the worst violence along
the Lebanese-Israeli border in more than a year.
A recent escalation between Lebanon's Hizbullah organization and
Israel left one Israeli civilian dead and a Hizbullah antiaircraft
gun destroyed in an air strike.
Diplomats and United Nations peacekeepers in south Lebanon fear
fighting might soon resume unless a diplomatic solution is reached
that will end the dangerous brinkmanship between Hizbullah and the
But Israel's staging of mass overflights by military jets in
Lebanese airspace Wednesday has dampened hopes of an imminent
breakthrough. The overflights are fueling suspicion that Israel is
seeking to goad the Islamic party into an open conflict. Many
Lebanese also suspect Israeli involvement in the recent
assassination of a senior Hizbullah military commander in Beirut.
"I think the Israelis are setting up Hizbullah and Syria. They
are trying to provoke a reaction by Hizbullah against Israel which
can then be used to mobilize American support to pressure Syria to
disarm Hizbullah," says Michael Young, a Lebanese political
The escalation began last Friday with an assault by Hizbullah
fighters against Israeli Army outposts in the Shebaa Farms, a 15-
square mile mountainous area running along Lebanon's southeast
border with the Golan Heights. The attack shattered a seven-month
lull. A day later, two Israeli residents of Kiryat Shemona in
northern Galilee were treated for shock when anti- aircraft rounds
fired by Hizbullah damaged buildings in the town.
Hizbullah routinely fires antiaircraft shells across the border
in a tit-for-tat retaliation to the almost daily violations of
Lebanese airspace by Israeli jets. The rounds from Hizbullah's
vintage 57mm cannons explode thousands of feet above Israeli border
towns, spattering whatever lies below with light shrapnel.
Several Israeli civilians have been wounded by falling shrapnel
and the UN had warned that it was only a matter of time before
someone was killed. Sunday, the UN's worst fears were confirmed when
a 16-year-old Israeli died and three other civilians were wounded
after three antiaircraft rounds exploded in the western Galilee
border town of Shelomi. Israel retaliated four hours later by
bombing the antiaircraft battery that carried out the fatal
shooting. In the early hours of Monday morning, an Israeli jet flew
a low-level supersonic run over Beirut. The thunderclap of the sonic
boom rattled windows, set off car alarms, and brought sleepy
Beirutis out onto balconies to scan the inky night sky for the
invisible planes, which continued to rumble over the city for
"If the Israelis are afraid of these antiaircraft shells, their
leaders should stop their planes from crossing Lebanese skies," says
Hassan Ezzieddine, a member of Hizbullah's politburo.
But Israel insists that the overflights are necessary for
reconnaissance purposes, and that Hizbullah's antiaircraft fire is
an unprovoked aggression. …