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Israeli Army Retaliates vs. Lebanon

September 1, 1999

MARJAYOUN, Lebanon (AP) _ Two Lebanese civilians were killed in Israeli shelling of southern Lebanon on Wednesday after a roadside bomb killed two Israeli-allied militiamen, security officials said.

The violence is certain to further escalate tensions in southern Lebanon. Israeli television reported Wednesday night that residents of northern Israel have been instructed to go to bomb shelters, apparently in anticipation of retaliatory attacks by Lebanese guerrillas.

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrilla group, which is fighting to oust Israeli troops from southern Lebanon, has in the past pledged to fire rockets on northern Israel in retaliation for civilian casualties.

Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the Wednesday afternoon roadside bombing, which targeted a patrol of militiamen from the South Lebanon Army near the town of Hasbaya.

The officials, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said two militiamen were killed and two others seriously wounded. The officials had initially said three militiamen were killed in the ambush.

The area where the ambush occurred is six miles northeast of Marjayoun, the main town in the Israeli-occupied zone, and about the same distance north of the Israeli border.

A Hezbollah official in Beirut, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the guerrillas detonated another bomb in the same area 15 minutes after the first one, inflicting casualties among members of the SLA patrol. There was no independent confirmation of the claim.

The attack triggered large-scale shelling of several villages, including Qilya and Libbaya in the southern Bekaa Valley. Two civilians, Hussein Akl, 18, and Fatima al-Jabali, 35, were killed and seven others were wounded in the shelling on Libbaya.

The officials said more than 90 shells were fired in the intermittent bombardment of the villages.

``I was standing outside my house. The shelling took me by surprise... I did not have time to go in,″ said 12-year-old Ala Akl, who suffered shrapnel wounds. Witnesses said Akl, whose 38-year-old mother was also wounded, was taken to a hospital in Beirut for treatment.

Israeli warplanes also fired four missiles in two sorties at the Zillaya valley, 12 miles north of the Israeli border. The area is believed to be a Hezbollah stronghold and is frequently attacked by Israeli planes. An Israeli army spokesman in Jerusalem confirmed the raid.

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