By the time his daughter was 4, said Itzik Arditi, she knew by heart the mournful melody of Israel's border war with Lebanon: the short sharp whistle of incoming Katyusha rockets, the sonic boom of warplanes overhead and the rumble of Israeli bombs hitting guerrilla targets just beyond the hills.
"We've had enough, really enough," said Arditi, a fortyish poultry plant technician whose dark-eyed daughter, now 6, squirmed at his hip this afternoon. "When the rockets land you've got to jump up in the middle of your dental work, or in the market you suddenly have to start running with your bags of groceries. You have to run like a crazy person to your car, with your heart pounding, to get home to your kids. . . . It's not written anywhere that the kids have to suffer."
That suffering is part of the price Israelis pay for living in this scruffy, unhappy town along the Lebanese border, which often bears the brunt of the 15-year-old conflict.
In a major flare-up late Thursday, Hezbollah fired a few dozen rockets at northern Israel, and one hit the facade of the town hall, killing two men standing at the doorway. Overnight, Israeli retaliatory raids killed at least eight Lebanese, wounded 62 and knocked out power stations, bridges, communications centers and other targets, according to news agency reports from Beirut, the Lebanese capital.
The exchange between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas late Thursday and early today was by far the heaviest in three years. Today Israelis seethed with frustration and rage at the war, and many applauded the strikes on Lebanon.
"If I can't sleep at night, they shouldn't be able to sleep either," said Arditi, expressing the common view.
The Israeli attacks left much of Beirut without power. It dealt another blow to the country's fragile economy and infuriated many Lebanese.
"What happened amounts to a catastrophe and is new proof of Israel's unlimited barbarianism," Lebanese Prime Minister Salim Hoss said. He asked Washington to intervene and the White House urged all sides to exercise "maximum restraint."
The border has been the scene of clashes for more than two decades. First the conflict was between Israelis and Palestinian guerrillas attacking from nearby Lebanese hills. Since the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, it has been between Israelis and guerrillas from Lebanon's Shiite Muslim Hezbollah, or Party of God, who have pledged to drive Israeli forces from a strip of Lebanese territory they have taken over as a buffer zone.
It is a war that kills several dozen people on both sides each year. Both sides claim the role of victim and each occasionally asserts an exclusive right to disproportionate retaliation.
The war is broadly unpopular in Israel, but opinions about how to end it are varied and complex. Many Israelis want a withdrawal from south Lebanon, many want tough retaliation against Lebanon for Hezbollah attacks -- and quite a few want both.
But there is also widespread acceptance in Israel that the only way to end the war conclusively is with a comprehensive peace with Syria, the power broker that controls supplies to Hezbollah and much else of what goes on in Lebanon. That is the strategy that the prime minister-elect, Ehud Barak, has promised to follow to withdraw Israeli troops from southern Lebanon within a year.
In the last major flare-up between Israel and Hezbollah in 1996, some 200 people were killed and the two sides finally agreed not to target each other's civilians or launch attacks from civilian-populated areas. That accord has deterred strikes against towns and villages along the border, but not stopped them. On several occasions this year, tit-for-tat attacks have threatened to spiral out of control.
According to reports from both sides, the sequence of events began small Thursday afternoon and got big with remarkable speed. It started with a skirmish in the nine-mile-deep band of Israeli-occupied territory in southern Lebanon.
The skirmish apparently involved Hezbollah guerrillas and soldiers of the South Lebanon Army, a surrogate force armed, trained and financed by Israel. Shots were fired on the SLA, which responded with artillery fire. According to Hezbollah, the artillery fire wounded a middle-aged Lebanese woman in the village of Qabriya.
Hezbollah then launched four barrages of Katyusha rockets -- perhaps 50 in all -- over the border at northern Israel. Katyushas, manufactured in former Warsaw Pact countries, are small, highly mobile and not terribly accurate. But they can travel up to 15 miles in a couple of minutes, and they can do considerable damage if they hit something.
Shortly after 8 p.m., it was Israel's turn to up the ante. At the urging of top military officers, outgoing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered retaliatory strikes against the Lebanese infrastructure. Officials said he did so without seeking the consent of Barak, who is expected to take office in the next two weeks. Israeli newspapers reported that Barak was displeased with the decision.
As the night wore on, explosions resounded around Lebanon, and here in Kiryat Shemonah. In a lull shortly before midnight, two men, Shimon Elimelech and Tony Zana, drove to the Kiryat Shemonah town hall to help with bomb shelter arrangements. As they stood in the doorway, a Katyusha slammed into the top floor of the three-story building, almost directly above the doorway, splattering shrapnel and killing the two instantly.
Today, Elimelech's wife and mother sobbed and neighbors watched his funeral cortege depart their apartment building. In the street, the talk was of revenge.
"The army has to do more," said Yossi Cohen, a jobless man in his mid-forties. "We've become hostages of the Hezbollah."
"We have to hit them in a way that they'll feel, so that they're the ones who have to make concessions, not us." said Asher Tweezer, 29, a teacher.
Israeli officials said their pilots are "on standby" to continue hitting the Lebanese infrastructure should Hezbollah's attacks continue. "If there is no calm in the north of Israel there will be none in Beirut either," Netanyahu declared.
Staff writer Steven Mufson in Washington contributed to this report.
CAPTION: Three Lebanese firemen in Beirut mourn two of their colleagues who were killed while fighting a fire at a power station hit by an Israeli airstrike on Thursday. At least eight Lebanese were killed and 62 wounded in Israeli raids that followed a Hezbollah attack on northern Israel.