The chief of the northern areas of the Israeli army, General Bini Gants has accused Syria and Iran of arming the Lebanese Hizb Allah movement, which he described as "terrorist".

Gants told Aljazeera television on Tuesday that the continuation of Hizb Allah's attacks would push Israel to launch "a painful and qualitative military operation" against Syria.

He added that the Israeli army had thwarted Hizb Allah attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers.

Two Israeli soldiers and a Hizb Allah fighter were killed on Tuesday as air raids and gun battles raged across the volatile Israel-Lebanon border.

And Lebanese anti-aircraft batteries opened up on Israeli warplanes that broke the sound barrier at low altitude over Beirut, after Hizb Allah guns earlier shot at planes over the border, AFP correspondents and security sources said.

The violence, which drew calls for restraint from the United States, erupted a day after a Hizb Allah military commander was blown up in a Beirut car bomb attack blamed on Israel. 

Lebanon said it was considering a protest to the United Nations over what it called "aggressions" by arch foe Israel, while Hizb Allah warned it would avenge the killing of a second militant in two days.

Hizb Allah chief Shaikh Hasan Nasr Allah vowed to "cut the hand" of Israel after blaming it for the Monday bombing that killed Ghalib Awali, a member of the movement's military wing.

Rocket attacks

In Israel, army Captain Jacob Dallal said: "There was a deliberate attack by Hizb Allah snipers on a Tshahal [army] position in the western area of the border. Two soldiers have been killed. The army has responded to the shooting."

Israeli combat helicopters fired eight rockets during three raids on Hizb Allah monitoring posts on the outskirts of the border villages of Aita Shaab and Blatt, Hizb Allah and police sources said.

Israeli helicopter gunships
entered Lebanon firing missiles

And an Israeli tank opened fire on a Hizb Allah post near Aita Shaab, killing one fighter, according to a statement by the movement's military arm, the Islamic Resistance.

Lebanese police said Israeli helicopters strafed the border region with machine guns under the cover of warplanes, which prompted Hizb Allah anti-aircraft fire.

Foreign Minister Jean Obeid told the country's UN envoy to hold consultations "on the possibility of calling a special Security Council meeting to condemn the Israeli aggressions," his ministry said.

Restraint urged

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: "As far as the situation on the border, we think the parties should exercise maximum restraint."

On Tuesday evening, Israeli fighter-bombers caused supersonic booms over Beirut, provoking panic on the streets of the capital.

The United States, he said, had spoken with representatives of the UN interim force in Lebanon in the region "and we're following events there closely". 

On Tuesday evening, Israeli fighter-bombers caused supersonic booms over Beirut, provoking panic on the streets of the capital.

"It is the first such supersonic bangs in years, probably since the Israeli withdrawal" from southern Lebanon, a security source said.

In response, Lebanese anti-aircraft batteries opened fire at the planes south of the capital, a senior security source said.