Katyusha Strikes Village in North, 3 Hurt

A rocket fired from Lebanon struck northern Israel yesterday, lightly wounding three people and prompting Israel to respond with a brief artillery barrage.

The Katyusha landed near a home in an Arab-Israeli town in the Galilee, damaging it. In addition to wounding three members of the Machimar family, the explosion sent two others into shock. Israel retaliated by firing at least six artillery shells into southern Lebanon, causing no injuries.

No organization has claimed responsibility for launching the rocket, and Hezbollah denied having fired it.

A second rocket landed inside Lebanon.

Senior Fatah operative Sultan Abu-al Einin said that none of the organizations affiliated with Fatah are behind the launching.

Yesterday's rocket fire was the third in two months. The two previous incidents occurred during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, which ended last month. Since the end of the Second Lebanon War, there have been five incidents of Katyusha rockets fired from Lebanon into Israel.

Defense establishment sources said the 122-milimeter rockets may have been discharged prematurely due to a technical malfunction because of the inclement weather.

Another option is that they were launched by an Arab or Palestinian militant organization. The South Lebanon arena also includes small organizations affiliated with Al-Qaida, such as Usbat al-Anssar, which are not connected to Hezbollah.

Security officials have said that Hezbollah is especially motivated to seek revenge against Israel for the death of Hezbollah's number two man, Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a car bombing in Damascus in February last year. Israel has not taken responsibility for the assassination, but Hezbollah has repeatedly said it is holding Israel accountable.

The head of the local council where the rocket struck, Mailiyah, said there was no warning siren. "It's miracle no one was killed. Had the rocket landed just a few meters to the north, it would have had disastrous consequences."

Shrapnel hit the room of a 14-year-old boy, who was sleeping in another room at the time, on the floor. People who inspected the bed in that room said the teen could have been killed had he been in the bed at the time of impact, because the ceiling had collapsed onto the bed.

The boy's three siblings and mother were also home at the time. The boy's father, who owns an auto part shop, was at work.

The mother, Janith, was in the kitchen and her children were in their rooms when the rocket struck, narrowly missing the house, shattering windows and perforating some of the walls.

One of the boy's sisters, who was lightly wounded, said: "We were in the room when we suddenly heard a loud blast. At first we thought it was thunder, but then the windows shattered and black smoke filled the room. We called our father, crying."

She said that the family members "couldn't believe it" when neighbors told them a Katyusha had landed near the house. The girl's uncle, who lives nearby, Emil Abed, was also wounded from shrapnel.

During the Second Lebanon War, Mailiyah's 3,000 predominantly Catholic residents absorbed several Katyusha strikes. "We have shelters and protected areas, but not enough to accommodate everyone in town," said Iliyah Araf, the head of the local council.