Troops shoot gunman from s. Lebanon

Security officials say he was possibily a member of Hizbullah.

Hizbullah 298 AP (photo credit: AP)
Hizbullah 298 AP
(photo credit: AP)
Security forces were maintaining a high state of alert along the northern border Wednesday night after a gunman from southern Lebanon crossed the blue line in the afternoon hours and infiltrated 200 meters inside Israel. The gunman opened fire at soldiers manning a post at Har Dov, before he was shot, while his condition and affiliation were unclear. Security officials did not rule out the possibility that he is a member of Hizbullah and ere seeking to establish whether he acted alone or with others. Soldiers manning the outpost responded with light weapons fire and saw the gunman fall but were unable to determine the extent of his injuries, security officials said. Soldiers refrained from approaching the gunman, fearing they may walk into a Hizbullah initiated ambush. The officials noted that the rocky terrain and deep ravines in the area prevent a security fence from being constructed, forcing IDF forces manning outposts and surveillance positions to constantly monitor the situation. In recent months Hizbullah has issued a number of warnings threatening to abduct IDF soldiers, and Israeli security officials have not ruled out the possibility that it will attempt to escalate efforts and resume attacks on Israel in light of the outcome of the recent Palestinian legislative elections. In January this year, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told reporters that the defense establishment was aware that al-Qaida is focusing more and more on the Middle East and Israel, and that the establishment was prepared to deal with that reality. Security officials backed his statements at the time, and declared that Palestinian terror factions operating in southern Lebanon maintain contacts with al-Qaida operatives. The defense minister's statements came days after al Qaida claimed responsibility for Katyusha rocket attacks on Kiryat Shmona and Shlomi. Mofaz said that based on assessments of the situation he believes that the situation along the northern border will become more complicated in 2006. Mofaz noted that ever since the Hizbullah attack on Ghajar last November, the Shi'ite appeared to be beefing up in preparation for further attacks. At the time, Hizbullah gunmen attempted to abduct soldiers deployed in Ghajar and an IDF post on the north eastern sector of Mount Dov under the cover of heavy barrages of mortar shells and gunfire, in what appeared to be a well coordinated large scale attack. Eleven soldiers and civilians were wounded, and at least four of the gunmen were killed. Meanwhile the army said it was investigating joint claims by Islamic Jihad and Fatah's Al Aksa Martyr's brigades that it had fired a number of rockets at a naval boat patrolling off the Gaza coast near Rafah Wednesday morning. While the army denied that any naval vessels were hit, it claimed that the incident appeared to have been a work accident. The assumptions, the army said, were based on Palestinian media reports that claimed two suicide bombers blew up prematurely. In the early morning incident loud explosions rocked the Rafah area.