Mofaz: Israel Won't Be Dragged to Escalation on Lebanon Border

UN chief condemns Wed. rocket attack on Israel; Two explosions heard in Har Dov area on Israel-Lebanon border.

Israel considers Lebanon's government responsible for the latest round of explosions in the Har Dov area on the Israel-Lebanon border, probably caused by rockets, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told Israel Radio Friday morning.

"But we will not be dragged toward an escalation" in the situation, Mofaz said.

On Thursday night, two explosions were heard on the Israel-Lebanon border in the Har Dov area, the Israeli military said. On Wednesday night, the northern town of Shlomi came under Katyusha fire from south Lebanon causing damage to a building but no casualties.

The military said it was not clear what caused the latest blast - a roadside bomb, a mortar shell or a rocket. No casualties were reported.

"These are presumed attacks from Lebanese territory," an army spokeswoman said. But she said that the exact cause of the explosions could not be confirmed until searches were conducted.

She said Israel had dispatched army helicopters to the area, but soldiers would not be able to conduct a thorough probe until morning.

The area is called Shebaa Farms by the Lebanese and Har Dov by the Israelis. A U.N.-drawn border that followed Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000 left the area under Israeli control, but Lebanon claims it. Hezbollah guerrillas sporadically attack Israeli forces there.

Lebanese security officials in areas near the border with Israel said they heard "the sound of explosions in the Shebaa Farms." A Hezbollah spokesman in Beirut declined to comment, and there was no immediate reaction from the Lebanese government.

Although it has physically withdrew from Lebanon, Mofaz said Syria "still keeps certain control over events in Lebanon."

"The Syrian involvement in Lebanon, and the continuing aid to terror groups in Iraq fighting U.S. and coalition forces, will continue the exterior pressure on Syria," Mofaz told Israel Radio. "The Syrians will have to carefully consider their actions in the future," he said.

Annan: Lebanon must impose order within its territory United Nations Secretary General Kofi Anna condemned Wednesday's Katyusha rocket attack in a statement issued on Thursday, Army Radio reported.

Annan said the Lebanese government must impose order within its territory and called on both sides to respect the Blue Line boundary drawn by the UN between Israel and Lebanon.

The UN chief also said that an incident like Israel's inadvertent firing of an artillery shell into Lebanese territory earlier in the week does not justify subsequent violations originating from Lebanon.

Israel's mission to the United Nations will submit a complaint with the Security Council and Secretary General Kofi Annan over the firing of a Katyusha rocket at an Israeli town Wednesday night.

"Actions like this are allowed when militias wander around in South Lebanon doing whatever they feel like," the Israeli statement to the UN was to read.

An announcement issued by the Foreign Ministry said the incident demonstrates yet again that the Security Council resolution calling for the disarmament of South Lebanese militant organizations, particularly Hezbollah, must be implemented.

The IDF believes that the rocket was fired by Palestinian militants, and not by the Lebanon-based guerrilla group Hezbollah.

As a result of the attack, which damaged a local bakery, all Independence Day celebrations in the area were cancelled on Wednesday, but it was decided to resume the celebrations on Thursday morning.

The IDF said that it was preparing to boost security on the northern border after the incident, and that it held Lebanon responsible for the attack.

"The Lebanese government is responsible for all incidents which take place in Lebanese territory, including these attacks, which are conducted by terror organizations," GOC Northern Command Brigadier General Gal Hirsch said. Hirsch urged Lebanon to honor UN calls to disarm militias in its territory.

"The army will not allow terror activity and provocative actions aimed at civilians in northern Israel," he added. "It will prepare to prevent the reoccurrence of similar terror attacks and will respond if needed."

Hezbollah officials in Lebanon declined to comment, and there was no immediate reaction from the government in Beirut.

Earlier this week, Israel mistakenly fired an artillery shell into Lebanon while clearing an explosive field planted by the guerrillas near the border.

The IDF said the shell fell in an open area, causing no damage or casualties.