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Israeli soldier, militiaman killed in new Hezbollah attacks
BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- An Israeli soldier and a pro-Israeli militiaman were killed Tuesday in renewed fighting with Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon, just hours after Israeli warplanes extensively damaged the electric power grid around Beirut.
Israel is warning that further attacks on its troops will provoke new retaliation.
The soldier, according to the Israeli army, was killed a few kilometers north of the Israeli border by a direct hit from a missile fired from the village of Nabetiyeh. He was the sixth Israeli soldier killed this year.
The militiaman from the pro-Israeli South Lebanon Army was killed by what was described as anti-tank fire in Israel-occupied southern Lebanon.
Israel said its attack on Beirut's power grid was a warning to the Lebanese government and Hezbollah to stop the attacks on its soldiers.
Fifteen civilians were injured in Israel's strikes on the power grid.
Lebanon and Syria accused Israel of violating a truce agreement intended to protect civilians from attack during military operations.
In Beirut, Lebanese Prime Minister Salim Hoss told CNN he considered the attacks on the power grid "unjustified and unacceptable."
The raids on three power stations around Beirut caused "millions of dollars in damages," said Hoss.
Syria and Lebanon are demanding that the United States and France persuade Israel to abide by the terms of the April 1996 Grapes of Wrath agreement to avoid civilian targets.
But Israel pointed out that the missile that killed the soldier on Tuesday was fired from a village -- a "serious violation" by Hezbollah of the Grapes of Wrath agreement.
An official Syrian source said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's decision to attack the Beirut power grid was foolish. The source added that the attacks come at a crucial time in the peace process. Israel and Syria recently held renewed peace talks after a nearly four-year break.
Israel responded by saying negotiations toward peace with Syria couldn't go on while Israeli soldiers are dying in terror attacks.
Israeli Public Safety Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami told CNN that Hezbollah is controlled by Syria and Iran. "We cannot negotiate with the head while fighting the tail," he said. Hezbollah is staging the attacks "with the tacit approval of the Syrians."
Mark Regev, an Israeli spokesman in Washington, said there can be no peace talks while the Hezbollah is staging "terrorist attacks" that kill Israelis.
"Israel wants a deal. We want a political, diplomatic solution, but we can't stand idle while our boys are being attacked," Regev said.
The Israeli spokesman blamed the Syrians and the Lebanese for not doing enough to curb Hezbollah. "We know that Syria does control large parts of Lebanon and that they have control over the infrastructure, and it is our belief that if more was done by Damascus, in fact, the situation could have been cooled down," he said.
Hoss said he hoped Hezbollah would not respond to Israel's airstrikes by firing rockets into northern Israel.
Hezbollah issued a statement Tuesday that the Islamic guerrillas "reserve the right to retaliate at the appropriate time -- which could come very soon."
Israeli authorities declared a "special situation" Tuesday in northern Israel, allowing Israeli commanders to order residents into bomb shelters. Previous alerts had been voluntary.
Hezbollah has been fighting to drive Israeli troops from a security zone Israel established in southern Lebanon in 1985. Israel established the zone to protect its northern settlements from cross-border guerrilla attacks. The South Lebanon Army is Israel's auxiliary militia in the area.
Beirut Bureau Chief Brent Sadler contributed to this report.
Israeli warplanes strike Lebanon again
Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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