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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Clash on Israel-Lebanese border

Israeli and Lebanese forces have exchanged fire on the international border between the two countries.

Israeli officials said their troops came under fire as they searched a border area where four explosives were found on Monday.

Troops returned fire but no casualties were reported, security sources said. Lebanese officials confirmed the clash.

Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia fought a 34-day war last year sparked by flare-ups on the tense border.

Since that conflict the international border between Israel and Lebanon has been policed by a combination of Lebanese government soldiers and UN troops.

Territory dispute

According to Israeli reports, Lebanese troops fired when an Israeli patrol crossed a security fence near the Israeli village of Avivim.

"We called for them to stop firing, they shot at us and we returned fire," an Israeli source told the Reuters news agency.

Israel insisted that the patrol had not actually crossed into Lebanese territory.

Lebanese officials said the Israelis were across the border.

"An Israeli bulldozer crossed into south Lebanon tonight. Our forces opened fire at it. It pulled back and there was a brief exchange of fire," an army official told Reuters.

Israel said the bombs discovered earlier in the week were recently planted by Hezbollah, in violation of the terms of the ongoing ceasefire.

Hezbollah has denied the charge, saying the bombs had been there since last summer's fighting.

The BBC's Simon Wilson, in Jerusalem, says the flare-up is serious, but not as serious as if the exchange of fire had involved Israel and Hezbollah fighters.
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