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Peretz to Lebanon: Keep Calm or We Will Hit Hard

Defense Minister Amir Peretz urged calm on both sides Sunday night after a day of Katyusha attacks launched from south Lebanon and Israeli military retaliation strikes.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 5/28/2006, 10:42 PM / Last Update: 5/29/2006, 12:32 AM

Peretz maintained that Israel had no intention of escalating the clashes that began with a Katyusha rocket attack on a northern IDF army base early Sunday morning in which a soldier was lightly injured and a building was damaged. The soldier, a 20-year-old from Ariel, was evacuated to Sieff Hospital in Tzfat.

By noontime, Israel Air Force jets had struck two terrorist bases in response, killing at least one terrorist and wounding several others. The guns of south Lebanon were silent, but not for long.

By late afternoon, mortal shells were raining down on several northern communities. Residents were ordered into the shelters, and IAF attack helicopters took to the skies to eliminate the threat. A second IDF soldier was moderately wounded and evacuated to Rambam Hospital in Haifa, where he was initially listed in stable condition. On Sunday night his condition worsened and was downgraded to “serious”.

At approximately 5:00 pm, the Lebanese government sent a request for a ceasefire through a United Nations emissary. Israel agreed to stop firing. The Defense Minister also made an effort to reassure Lebanon and the international community, that he was not planning a full-scale operation in response to the provocation.

Peretz did, however, say held the Lebanese government responsible for enforcing “calm” in the area and controlling the terrorists on its side of the border. “We have no intention of excusing the government of Lebanon from what is happening in the north,” he said.

“There is no intention of escalating or exacerbate the conflict,” he told reporters in Beersheva Sunday evening. “We intend on doing everything we can to reach calm.”

Nonetheless, Peretz warned that further attacks would not be tolerated, and assured mayors and community leaders in the north that the IDF would do whatever was necessary to ensure a peaceful atmosphere.

“Israel will know how to inflict pain on those who try to harm it,” he said.

After a meeting with top security officials, Peretz praised the soldiers for having carried out a “decisive” response, and said that Lebanon had clearly gotten the message.