Israel-Lebanese Border Cooling

July 7, 2008 - 8:07 PM

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Tensions along Israel's northern border began to ease on Thursday, permitting residents to emerge from bomb shelters after three nights underground.

As the threat of Hizballah rocket attacks appeared to subside, children returned to school in every community except Kiryat Shemona, which is more prone to attacks.

Israeli jets struck again at Hizballah targets inside Lebanon on Thursday, an IDF spokesman told CNSNews.com. The strikes apparently were in an area where the Iranian-backed organization maintains a large arms cache.

Claiming victory in the recent upsurge of violence, Hizballah announced earlier it would not fire Katyusha rockets at Israeli communities across the border, for now.

The organization said Israel had failed to meet its objectives to bring about a change in the situation in Lebanon and to eliminate the Lebanese government and people's support for Hizballah.

However, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said Israel had changed the rules of the game this week.

"The important change of principle that happened this week is that the IDF carried out a large-scale operation in Lebanon, including damage to infrastructure, not in response to firing of Katyushas at civilians but in response to casualties inflicted on our soldiers in Lebanon," Sneh said in a radio interview.

Israeli jets attacked Lebanese power transformers on Monday night and have continued to hit Hizballah targets since then. Six Israeli and four Israeli-allied South Lebanese Army (SLA) soldiers have been killed by Hizballah in southern Lebanon in just two weeks.

Israel accused Hizballah of violating a 1996 U.S.-brokered agreement designed to protect civilians by prohibiting attacks from civilian areas.

Israel had hoped for quiet along the border as a gesture from Syria when talks between Damascus and Jerusalem resumed in December, but just the opposite happened. Syria controls the flow of weapons and goods from Iran to Hizballah.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright telephoned Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Shara earlier this week to ask Damascus to pressure Hizballah into restraint.

The U.S. stood squarely behind Israel in its actions in Lebanon, blaming Hizballah for the escalation there.

Lebanon and Syria agreed earlier to attend a meeting of a committee set up to monitor the 1996 agreement. CNSNews.com has learned that Israel has also agreed to attend a committee meeting and return to the terms of 1996 agreement.