JERUSALEM,(Reuters) – Israeli warplanes attacked a Palestinian guerrilla group”s training base in Lebanon on Wednesday, the army said, after a rocket strike on an Israeli town raised border tension to its highest level in years.
"The message is to the government of Lebanon which is responsible for preventing terror attacks from its territory," Israel”s northern commander Major-General Udi Adam told Reuters.
"The State of Israel holds the Lebanese government responsible for these attacks, in that it has done nothing to dismantle the terror organisations operating from within Lebanon, in violation of U.N. decisions 425 and 1559," the army said in a statement.
The attack targeted a base belonging to the pro-Syrian Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) in Na”meh south of Beirut and slightly wounded two of its fighters, the group”s spokesman Anwar Raja told Reuters.
He denied the group”s involvement in the rocket attack against northern Israel.
"The air strike is an Israeli attempt to depict the presence of Palestinian groups in Lebanon as a source of instability while they(the Israelis) continue to violate Lebanon”s sovereignty in the air, land and sea," he said.
"Israel wants to bring (U.N. Security Council) resolution 1559 under the spotlight but we are confident that the Lebanese authorities are aware of this blatant attempt."
The 2004 resolution in part demands the disarmament of all militia in Lebanon, a reference to the pro-Syrian Hizbollah and other Palestinian militant groups. The Beirut government has yet to implement the resolution.
The Lebanese army said in a statement two Israeli warplanes fired two rockets at dawn. A Reuters photographer said the strike also smashed windows of several buildings nearby.
Adam blamed Palestinian guerrillas for attempting to escalate tension along the Israel-Lebanon border by slamming at least three Katyusha rockets into the northern town of Kiryat Shemona shortly before midnight on Tuesday.
It was the first rocket attack in years against the town — which was a regular target of Katyusha rocket strikes until Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000 after a 22-year occupation.
The Katyusha rockets scored a direct hit on three homes, wounding three people and sending others into shock.
"I thought the gas canister blew up because I didn”t think that at this time of the day there would be Katyushas in the house," David Goldstein, whose house was badly damaged in the attack, told Israel Radio.
Residents of Kiryat Shemona were ordered to enter bomb shelters following the strike. Explosions were heard overnight near the northern village of Shlomi indicating additional Katyusha strikes, Israeli media reported.
The army was not immediately able to confirm the reports.
"We will not tolerate a situation in which Katyusha fire becomes a routine of daily life," Adam said.
Tension along the Israel-Lebanon border has heightened in recent months due to international pressure against Syria over the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and demands that Iran, a supporter of Hizbollah, halt its nuclear programme, Adam said.
The killing of Hariri in February sparked massive protests that forced Syria to bow to world pressure to withdraw its troops from Lebanon in April after 29 years.
In November, four Hizbollah guerrillas were killed and 11 Israeli soldiers wounded in the worst clashes in five years. They erupted when Hizbollah fighters raided a divided border town in what the army said was an attempt to kidnap soldiers.