Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - An IDF soldier was killed in south Lebanon on Tuesday, according to unconfirmed reports from the area, bringing the total to six who have died in the last two weeks. His death is certain to bring about a further escalation in the fighting there between the Israeli military and Hizb'allah.
Meanwhile, residents of northern Israel are bracing themselves for promised retaliatory Katuysha attacks from the Hizb'allah less than one day after Israeli planes blasted Lebanese infrastructure.
Hizb'allah threatened Israeli citizens that they should "pay the price" for the attacks on Lebanon and said certainly Israeli soldiers would be the targets of "roadside bombs, ambushes and rockets."
Earlier, many Israelis headed south to get out of harms way, but those who remained stayed in their underground bunkers. Children, making do underground, could not enjoy the spring-like weather on Tuesday, and families will spend at least one more night in shelters and security rooms.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak visited residents in their bomb shelters in the northern Israeli city of Kiryat Shemona on Tuesday and vowed to protect them. However, Barak told them he did not know how long their ordeal would last.
"I'm not a prophet. I'm the Prime Minister of Israel. I am determined to do whatever it will take to protect the citizens of Israel, its armed forces and the South Lebanese Army, which works with us," Barak told reporters.
Barak added that Hizb'allah had systematically violated the international understandings reached to govern the security zone by using civilian areas to cover their operations and thus "exploiting the fact that Israel will not hit deliberately into villages."
Though they expressed their fears, residents approved of the IAF action. However, many of them believe that the government did not go far enough and that the IDF needs to take further action to ensure the security of the north.
The opposition in the Knesset was widely supportive of the air strikes, but Knesset member Eliezer Cohen said that he did not believe that the air strikes had gone far enough to restrain Hizb'allah.
"It will be enough just for the conscience of the government," Cohen said in a radio interview. "They can say we did it. We just did whatever we needed to do. Its absolutely not enough for the terrorists, not for the Hizb'allah, not for the government in Iran and not for the Syrians."
Cohen, a former IAF pilot, said he believed that the IAF should completely cut Syria off from Lebanon. "They don't need many days for this, just a few hours and Syria will be disconnected from Lebanon," Cohen said. However, he declined to say how the operation might take place.
Syria occupied Lebanon, uninvited, in June 1976 but was given an Arab League mandate to be there later that year. However, the mandate was cancelled in 1982 and all foreign forces were asked to leave the country by the Lebanese.
Israel entered southern Lebanon in 1982 in an effort to end the cross-border terror attacks on its northern communities. With the help of the SLA, the IDF later set up a buffer zone to protect its northern border.
A year ago, Barak was campaigning for Prime Minister on a platform of withdrawing troops from Lebanon within a year of taking office - July 2000. Hopes were high in December that renewed talks with Syria would facilitate a negotiated agreement with Lebanon for the troop withdrawal.
However, those hopes have been all but dashed by the breakdown of Israeli-Syrian talks, and there are many voices across the political spectrum in Israel that are now calling for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal to take place even before July.