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SNAP ANALYSIS-Rockets from Lebanon challenge Gaza offensive | 8 janvier 2009

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JERUSALEM, Jan 8 (Reuters) – A rocket attack on northern Israel on Thursday appeared to be a response by Palestinian guerrillas in Lebanon to the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, according to assessments on both sides of the frontier.
At least three rockets were fired, wounding two people. Israel struck back with what its army described as pinpoint artillery fire at the source of the attack — a limited military response that seemed to signal a desire to avoid escalation.There were no immediate reports of casualties in Lebanon.

* Lebanese security sources said they felt it was unlikely Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrillas, against whom Israel waged a 2006 war, carried out the rocket strike. Israeli military affairs commentators said Hezbollah, which fired some 4,000 rockets into Israel in that conflict, had no interest in heating up the border and drawing punishing Israeli air strikes.

* Hamas sources in Lebanon denied involvement. Israeli commentators pointed a finger at Palestinian guerrilla groups in Lebanon, saying Israel had been expecting them to respond to the 13-day-old offensive that has killed more than 600 of their brethren in the Gaza Strip. Last week, the leader of the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Ahmed Jibril, threatened to open a new front on Israel.

* »We took into account there would be an attempt by Palestinian groups to express solidarity, » Israeli cabinet minister Shalom Simchon said after the rocket attack.

* « It appears this small flame has been extinguished, » Roni Daniel, military affairs correspondent for Israel’s Channel Two television reported after the northern border went quiet again following the rocket salvo and Israel’s shelling.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Editing by Dominic Evans)

© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved.

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