An act of war by Lebanon – that is how the Israeli government has described the kidnapping of two soldiers by Hizbollah guerrillas. Israel now faces a crisis on two fronts, in Gaza and on its volatile northern frontier. This morning Hizbollah fighters launched dozens of rockets and mortars at the Israeli town of Shlomi, apparently in retaliation for the offensive in Gaza. The Israeli soldiers were also captured this morning in a cross-border raid.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: “The Lebanese government, of which Hizbollah is a part, is trying to shake regional stability. If necessary we will carry out very painful and far-reaching action.”
Hizbollah´s leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said he intended to exchange the abducted troops for his militants held in Israeli jails. In a bid to retrieve the soldiers, Israeli forces have entered southern Lebanon for the first time since pulling out of the area six years ago.
Reserve troops have been called up should Olmert decide to turn the incursion into a large-scale campaign. Israel has also attacked suspected Hizbollah targets from the air, killing two Lebanese civilians and wounding a soldier.
Warplanes have bombed several key bridges.Four Israeli servicemen were killed when their tank was destroyed by Hizbollah fire.
Earlier three other soldiers died in skirmishes on the border, and three civilians lost their lives in the attacks on Shlomi.
For Israel the priority now is to isolate the hostage-takers ahead of a rescue attempt.