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Israeli Forces Cross into Lebanon After Hezbollah Fight

Israeli troops moved into Southern Lebanon Wednesday in response to the abduction of two Israeli soldiers during a border raid by the militant group Hezbollah. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the soldiers' kidnapping an "act of war."

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    The new violence in the Middle East, this time between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Israeli and Lebanese ambassadors to the United States were interviewed earlier today on CNN.

  • DANIEL AYALON, Ambassador, Israel:

    We have here a clear war situation. We have been attacked by Lebanon, from a Lebanese soil, by terror organizations.

    This attack becomes much more brazen, after we have totally pulled out of Lebanon five years ago. We clearly moved to the other side of the border, the blue line.

    The international-recognized border was endorsed by the U.N., which also called for the Lebanese government to exercise its sovereignty over the southern border with us, namely to disarm the Hezbollah, which is a terror organization operated from Damascus or Tehran.

    The Lebanese government, in order to be viable, must exercise their sovereignty and exercise and also perform their duty and obligation according to international law. If they do not control the Hezbollah, we will have to do the work. And first and foremost, we would like to bring back our soldiers safely home.

  • ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN International:

    But there's no evidence that anyone within the Lebanese government has any control over what Hezbollah does. I just want to get back to the point…

  • DANIEL AYALON:

    No, no, but this is an important point. Let me remind you that Hezbollah is a part and parcel of the Lebanese government. They have ministers who sit on the Hezbollah, but this is…

  • ROSEMARY CHURCH:

    But we know they're a divided government.

  • DANIEL AYALON:

    But even if they're divided, I mean, you cannot put the onus on Israel. It's the Lebanese problem.

    If they cannot control Hezbollah, maybe they are not a viable government. This is their problem. And if they do not keep peace and quiet on our northern border, they cannot have impunity.

    They have to understand one way or another. We hope it will be in peaceful means, and still there is a chance to do it if we receive our soldiers. And if we do not, we will have to exercise our right of self-defense.

    But the onus and the responsibility is the Lebanese government's, and there is no excuse to it.

  • FARID ABBOUD, Ambassador, Lebanon:

    We did not declare any war. It was declared on us when our country was occupied by the Israelis, when prisoners were taken from Lebanon into Israel, and when Palestinian refugees were pushed inside Lebanon.

    We did not occupy Israel; we did not declare war; we didn't do anything. We don't want any escalations.

    At this juncture, if there is any solution to be found, it should be around a negotiating table. And there should be negotiations to the withdrawal of the Israelis from the Lebanese-occupied territories and to the release of Lebanese prisoners. That's the only solution that will, you know, be feasible.

  • MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN International:

    You say that you don't want any escalations, but…

  • FARID ABBOUD:

    No, we don't.

  • MICHAEL HOLMES:

    … but crossing over the border into Israel, killing and seizing soldiers, what did you think would happen?

  • FARID ABBOUD:

    I'm not sure where the location of the attack took place. I understand that there was another battle, also, where during which the Israelis crossed Lebanese soil and that the casualties that fell then were inside Lebanon territory.

    But that's not very relevant. The issue is now that there are prisoners of Lebanon, detained by Israel, and there are Israeli prisoners in Lebanon, and there should be an exchange of prisoners.

    We do not want any escalation, and I don't think we have ever attacked Israel. I mean, Israel has always occupied our territory, and we have always defended ourselves. Our position has always been very reactive, defensive.