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Hezbollah attack kills Israeli soldier

Shebaa Farms
Shebaa Farms  

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- An Israeli soldier was killed and two others wounded on Friday when Lebanese guerrillas launched an attack against an army patrol in the disputed Shebaa Farms area at the foot of the Golan Heights.

The Shiite Muslim group said in a statement that it had "targeted a Zionist patrol ... which resulted in a direct hit."

In Jerusalem, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed that a bomb exploded and assailants shot at soldiers alongside a road near the disputed Lebanon-Israel border.

The attack, Hezbollah's first since the election of the Likud party's leader Ariel Sharon as prime minister, coincided with the ninth anniversary of the death of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Abbas al-Moussawi in a 1992 Israeli helicopter gunship attack.

Hezbollah has been fighting to wrest control of the area from Israel for Lebanon.

Israel, which captured the Golan Heights and the surrounding area during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, said it took the territory -- including the Shebaa Farms -- from Syria and will not address the issue with Lebanon.

Both Israel and the United Nations say that the fate of Shebaa Farms will be decided in Syrian-Israeli negotiations on the Golan.

Israel withdrew last June from land it had occupied in southern Lebanon, but the border in the Shebaa Farms area remains unsettled.

The Israeli withdrawal, a campaign promise of now-outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Barak, came last June after Syria dropped its demand that the Israelis also hand the area back to Lebanon.

Sharon orchestrated invasion of Lebanon

Earlier on Friday, Israeli helicopters hovered over Shebaa Farms while the army shelled several areas along the border. Witnesses said two Hezbollah positions were hit, but no casualties were immediately reported.

Hezbollah fighters have killed one other Israeli soldier, wounded at least one other and captured three more in a daring cross-border raid since Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon.

Lebanon, with Syria's backing, claims the withdrawal is incomplete, and maintains its demand that Shebaa Farms should be a part of the area handed over.

Prime Minister-elect Sharon, who trounced Barak in last week's election, is widely despised in Lebanon as the mastermind of Israel's 1982 invasion of its northern neighbor.

Later, an Israeli investigative commission found him partly responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian refugees at the hands of Israeli-allied Lebanese militiamen.

CNN Beirut Bureau Chief Brent Sadler contributed to this report.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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