Monitoring panel condemns Lebanon for Katyusha attack

By DAVID RUDGE   ©THE JERUSALEM POST

HAIFA (December 28) - The Grapes of Wrath monitoring group yesterday denounced Lebanon for the Katyusha rocket attacks on Kiryat Shmona and other parts of the Galilee last Wednesday.

The IDF Spokesman said in a statement that the five-nation committee had determined that the rocket barrage was an intentional retaliatory act and as such was a violation of the understandings reached at the end of Operation Grapes of Wrath in April 1996.

The statement said the monitoring group had recognized that deaths of a Lebanese woman and six of her children in an IAF strike near Janta village was accidental.

Nevertheless, the committee condemned Israel for the results of the raid, which had been aimed at an Hizbullah training base in the northern part of Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, near Janta.

The monitoring group, composed of representatives from America, France, Israel, Syria, and Lebanon, yesterday concluded its discussions into complaints submitted by Israel and Lebanon over the recent incidents.

The committee, which was established to supervise the understandings, called on Israel and Lebanon to submit to it any complaints about accident or intentional violations and thereby prevent an escalation of violence.

The meeting of the monitoring group at UNIFIL's headquarters in Nakoura had barely finished before renewed fighting broke out in the security zone, with South Lebanese Army positions in the eastern sector coming under mortar and recoilless rifle fire. There were no casualties in the attacks, for which Hizbullah claimed responsibility, and IDF and SLA gunners returned fire.

Meanwhile, members of the Knesset's interior committee yesterday visited Kiryat Shmona and other communities in the North that were struck by Hizbullah Katyushas last week.

The visit occurred amid arguments between local residents whose homes or businesses were hit and members of the Property Tax department, whose assessors have been estimating the cost of the damage. Some residents complained they are being offered insufficient compensation for belongings and property damaged or destroyed in the rocket barrage.

Udi Barzilai, responsible for the Property Tax in the Income Tax Authority, denied the allegations and stressed that the sole intention is to help residents.

Barzilai, in an interview on Israel Radio, said the aim is to return the situation to what it was before the rocket attacks and that residents would be fully compensated.


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