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  Isratine War

14 Hezbollah fighters killed in heavy exchanges of fire with IDF ground troops

Posted: 2006-08-06
From: Haaretz
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Israeli aircraft struck more than 150 targets in Lebanon overnight, Israel Radio reported early Monday, as Hezbollah battled IDF troops on several fronts.

By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent

Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed 14 Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon combat early on Monday.

Infantry troops from the Nahal Brigade encountered a Hezbollah cell in the village of Houla and a fierce gun battle broke out. A company commander and two soldiers were moderately wounded in the clash and the Nahal soldiers killed four Hezbollah men.

Another 10 Hezbollah operatives were killed in other clashes with the IDF on Monday morning, including four members of an anti-tank cell.

Heavy gun battles are ongoing in the village on Bint Jbail.

Hezbollah's television station said its men engaged IDF infantrymen advance on the border villages of Aita al-Shaab, Rub Thalatheen and Dibel.

Israeli aircraft struck more than 150 targets in Lebanon overnight, Israel Radio reported early Monday, as Hezbollah battled IDF troops on several fronts.

Lebanese sources said the air strikes killed 10 civilians. The targets included bridges, roads, bunkers, rocket launchers and launch sites, the radio said.

The combat followed a day in which Hezbollah rockets killed 12 soldiers in Kfar Giladi and three civilians in Haifa.

As the fighting raged, the UN Security Council failed to agree on a draft resolution seeking to end 27 days of fighting.

The five permanent council members - the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France - are to meet later on Monday after failing to agree on whether to amend the draft to take account of Lebanon's demand that Israeli troops withdraw.

Lebanon has demanded the draft Security Council resolution drawn up by France and the United States include a call for a rapid withdrawal of IDF troops from its soil.

Meanwhile, there was no let up in the violence which has killed at least 769 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 94 Israelis. Hezbollah says it will fight on until Israel stops bombing Lebanon and withdraws all its forces.

Seven members of the same family were killed in the southern Lebanese village of Ghazzaniyeh when Israeli jets struck their house Monday morning. Two civilians were killed and four seriously wounded in a similar strike in Kfar Tibneet village, also in the south.

IAF jets also struck a southern suburb of Beirut and the eastern Bekaa Valley, both Hezbollah strongholds. One civilian died in the Bekaa strikes.

IDF plans to ramp up offensive

The Israel Defense Forces plan to ramp up their offensive in Lebanon in response to Sunday's rocket attacks on northern Israel.

A senior General Staff officer told Haaretz that for the first time since the fighting began, Israel plans to attack strategic infrastructure targets and symbols of the Lebanese government.

Other than bombing the Beirut airport to prevent arms transfers to Hezbollah, Israel has hitherto not targeted Lebanon's infrastructure, insisting that it is only at war with Hezbollah, not with the Lebanese government or people.

However, the officer said, "we are now in a process of renewed escalation. We will continue hitting everything that moves in Hezbollah - but we will also hit strategic civilian infrastructure."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz will meet with senior defense officials this morning to discuss the continuation of the operation.

Altogether, Hezbollah fired more than 170 rockets at Israel on Sunday, including a barrage of at least 22 rockets on Haifa at about 8 P.M. that killed three people and wounded about 40.

The 12 reservists were killed, and another 12 wounded, by a single rocket - one of about 35 fired at the Galilee panhandle Sunday - that hit their muster point at around noon.

Altogether, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said that it treated 138 wounded people on Sunday, including five with serious injuries and six with moderate wounds.

Sources in the IDF General Staff said that until the chances of a UN-sponsored cease-fire become clearer, which is expected to happen in the coming days, Israel will continue to press its offensive. If Hezbollah has not ceased its fire by this weekend, they added, the IDF will recommend an additional significant expansion of the operation, including the conquest of most of Lebanon south of the Litani River, including the area around Tyre, and a significant increase in air strikes on infrastructure targets. "It could be that at the end of the story, Lebanon will be dark for a few years," said one.

The General Staff believes that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has recently stepped up his attacks because he expects the international community to impose a cease-fire soon. "He thinks that we're nearing the end, and therefore, he's taking risks, such as activating long-range rocket launchers, even though he knows that the air force will destroy almost every such launcher immediately after the launch," explained one officer.

IAF strikes Hezbollah region

Also early Monday, Israeli warplanes targeted a northeastern Lebanese region that is a symbol of Hezbollah power, witnesses and the group said. At least four explosions were heard around the Bekaa city of Baalbek, 100 kilometers north of Israel's border, witnesses said. There was no immediate word on casualties.

Warplanes struck roads about 20 kilometers (13 miles) south of Baalbek, and in the Rashaya region farther south on the corridor linking southern regions with the Bekaa in the country's east, the witnesses said.

Hezbollah has many bases in the Baalbek region. Israeli commandos on Wednesday landed troops in the Baalbek area and fought guerrillas, kidnapped several people before withdrawing. Sixteen Lebanese were killed in that raid.

--Aluf Benn, Eli Ashkenazi, Jack Khoury, Zafrir Rinat and Ran Reznick contributed to this report.

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