KIRYAT SHMONA, Israel Tuesday, August 25,1998 - 05:52 PM ET (CBS) Hours after Israeli Air-Force helicopters rocketed and killed a senior Lebanese guerilla commander, a volley of Katyusha rockets slammed into Northern Israel Tuesday. Local radio reports say 14 Israelis were lightly injured in the cross-border rocket attack and that residents were ordered into bomb shelters by loudspeakers.
The Israeli Army reportedly returned fire in the direction of the attack, causing hundreds of Lebanese civilians to flee their homes in fear of massive retaliation.
The attack came after Hossam al-Amin, who was thought to be the second-in-command of the military faction of Shiite Amal, was killed as he was driving along the south Lebanese coastal road not far from the Israeli border.
Guerrilla groups have been waging a war of attrition to force Israeli soldiers out of Lebanon. The Israeli army first entered Lebanon in 1978 to stop cross-border raids by Palestinian guerillas, who used that country as a staging ground for attacks against Israel.
In the last several years, the nature of the conflict has changed dramatically and the fighting has intensified. The two sides exchange fire almost every day, and both countries have suffered heavy casualties.
Cross-border rocket attacks are unusual and run the risk of seriously escalating the lengthy conflict. After similar rocket assaults in 1996, Israel began a 17-day air offensive against guerrilla targets in which over 100 Lebanese civilians were killed.
After the fighting, Israel and Lebanon both signed a cease-fire agreement in which both countries promised not to target one another's civilian populations.
The Israeli army confirmed that several rockets also landed in the Western Galilee area on Tuesday, and Israel radio said electricity had been knocked out in dozens of Kibbutz settlements in the area.
Raanan Aloni, a resident of Kiryat Shemona, said Tuesday that a first round of rockets landed in the center of town of 14,000 people around 9:45 p.m. local time. One rocket crashed into the house next door but no one was home, he said. "Other neighbors ran to shelters," Aloni told Israel radio.
Samir Sulidan, a resident of another northern community, told Army radio that rockets landed in his settlement as well. There was damage but no injuries, he said.
"People are in panic, in panic and fear. There are the wails of women and children," he said. He did not identify his village when he spoke to Army radio.
The Israeli army usually warns civilians when there is a high probability of incoming rockets, ushering them into public shelters, but Sulidan said there was no such warning prior to Tuesday's strike.
The Israeli army said its attack earlier in the day was a payback for Amal's recent assaults on Israeli positions in Israel's self-styled security zone in Southern Lebanon.
Five hours before the Lebanese rockets fell, Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai warned both Amal and Hezbollah, a larger and more active Iranian-backed guerrilla group, not to retaliate.
"I would not advise anyone on the other side to take action in response. We reserve the right and have legitimate cause to act as long as we need to against leaders of terrorism and terrorism itself wherever it is found," Mordechai said, speaking to reporters.
Israeli warplanes Tuesday also attacked suspected guerrilla hideouts in south Lebanon, reportedly injuring six civilians including a child and one guerrilla.�1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.