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ON THE BRINK : Deadly conflict erupts btwn Israel & Lebanon

JERUSALEM : Residents of Israel and Lebanon feared Wednesday that their countries were edging toward war after Israeli troops and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia exchanged deadly barrages across a fractious border earlier in the day. The clashes, which began with a Hezbollah attack that killed two Israeli soldiers, marked one of the most serious flare-ups of violence in the area since a month-long war in 2006 and raised tensions in a volatile tri-border zone close to positions held by Syrian rebels, including Islamist factions.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that “whoever is behind today’s attack will pay the full price.” In addition to Hezbollah, Netanyahu said Israel would hold the governments of Lebanon and Syria — which Hezbollah is backing in its civil war— responsible for any attack originating from their territories. The Israeli leader, in the midst of a competitive election campaign, also blamed Iran, another ally of Hezbollah, for trying to open a new front against Israel. As anti-armor missiles and tank artillery flashed across the countries’ frontier, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, traveling in China, said Israel should retaliate “in a very harsh and disproportionate manner.” The Lebanese-based Shiite movement Hezbollah, which asserted responsibility for the attack on an Israeli convoy, also threatened more actions. The deadly exchange on the border came 10 days after an Israeli airstrike in the Syrian-controlled portion of the Golan Heights killed six Hezbollah fighters and a senior military commander from Iran. Hezbollah leaders had vowed to retaliate.

FULL REPORT : Washington Post

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