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Tensions ease on Israeli border

KIRYAT SHEMONAH, Israel -- Tanks stood silent guard on Israel's northern border with Lebanon Saturday, as residents returned to their homes in this border city after fleeing rocket attacks that killed two people earlier this week.

Hundreds of citizens from the center of the country visited Kiryat Shemonah Saturday in a show of solidarity, Channel Two television reported. Many stopped at city hall, which had been hit by a missile early Friday that killed two emergency workers.The army said late Friday that it was safe for those who stayed behind to come out of the shelters and frightened residents that gushed from the city Thursday and Friday headed back home Saturday.

Five Israelis were injured when Hezbollah guerrillas fired a barrage of Katyusha rockets on the city Thursday. The attack was in response to the injury of a Lebanese civilian in south Lebanon in what the Shiite Muslim group said were Israeli strikes.

In retaliation, the Israeli army bombed three bridges, two power stations and a communications site near Beirut late Thursday, killing nine Lebanese and injuring dozens more. An ensuing Katyusha attack on Kiryat Shemonah left the two Israelis dead and a third seriously injured.

The wounded Israeli was still in grave condition Saturday, Israeli public television reported. The two Israeli casualties were the first from Katyusha attacks in more than four years.

The Israeli army placed tanks and armored personnel carriers in northern Israel on Friday but military analysts told public television the deployment was probably only a show of force. Witnesses said Saturday that the tanks had not even been taken off their carriers.

Mayors of northern communities said they would demonstrate Sunday outside the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has two weeks left to serve, to demand immediate compensation for the two days of lost work.