Israel kills Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon raid
Nadim Ladki | Beirut, Lebanon
19 August 2006 10:11
Israeli aircraft and commandos raided a Hezbollah bastion in eastern Lebanon on Saturday in the first big attack since a truce halted Israel's 34-day war with the guerrillas, Lebanese military and Hezbollah sources said.
Three Hezbollah guerrillas were killed in a firefight with the Israeli commandos, Lebanese security sources said. They said commandos in two vehicles unloaded from helicopters were on their way to attack an office of senior Hezbollah official Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek in the village of Bodai when they were spotted and intercepted.
The sources said the Israeli force suffered six casualties before pulling out under the cover of fierce air strikes.
An Israeli army spokesperson would not comment, but security sources confirmed the raid had taken place, Israel Radio said.
The account by Lebanese military and security sources was similar to that given by Hezbollah's al-Manar television, although al-Manar did not mention the Hezbollah casualties.
A United Nations-ordered "cessation of hostilities" on Monday halted the war between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas in which at least 1 183 people in Lebanon and 157 Israelis were killed.
A UN resolution ordered Israel to end all offensive military action and Hezbollah to end all attacks. It also called for the deployment of the Lebanese army in the south alongside a strengthened Unifil, the UN peacekeeping force in the area.
Israeli officials have vowed to stop any attempts by Hezbollah to rearm and to target leaders of the group.
Fifty French military engineers arrived at Unifil's main base in Naqoura on the south Lebanese coast, the first contingent of reinforcements to come since the war. The engineers were among 200 pledged by France, which had earlier been expected to form the backbone of the expanded UN force to supervise the truce, support the Lebanese army and monitor the withdrawal of Israeli troops.
The United States urged France on Friday to increase its contingent and the UN appealed for Europeans to contribute to the force to create a balance between Western and Muslim troops acceptable to Israel and Lebanon.
UN seeks more troops
UN Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown welcomed troop promises from Italy and Finland and firm commitments from Nepal and Muslim nations Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh.
Israeli officials have said that countries that do not have relations with the Jewish state should not be in the force. Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh are among them.
Indonesia's Defence Minister was quoted as saying Hezbollah should be integrated into the Lebanese army, not disarmed. "We want Lebanon to make Hezbollah part of the Lebanese troops so that they can carry out their task as Hezbollah is part of a party in Lebanon," the official Antara news agency quoted Juwono Sudarsono as saying.
The UN wants to field an advance force of 3 500 troops by September 2 and the entire complement by November 4. The Security Council on August 11 authorised up to 13 000 troops to join the 2 000 now serving with Unifil.
But France's reticence to send a large troop contingent has cast doubt on whether other European nations will step forward.
The Lebanese army began deploying in the south on Thursday. Hezbollah fighters have lain low, without relinquishing their weapons, including the rockets they rained on Israel in the war.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged Israel and Lebanon to make "painful compromises" to win the release of captured Israeli soldiers and settle the issue of Lebanese prisoners.
The war began after Hezbollah snatched two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12, saying it wanted to trade them for Lebanese and Arab prisoners held in Israel.
Last week's UN resolution called for the unconditional release of the two Israelis and urgently encouraged efforts at settling the issue of Lebanese prisoners in Israel.
In the occupied West Bank, Israel seized Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Naser al-Shaer of the ruling Hamas militant group at his home on Saturday, his wife and two legislators said.
Israel has taken more than two dozen Hamas lawmakers and several other Cabinet ministers into custody since late June, after it launched an offensive in response to the capture of a soldier in a cross-border raid from the Gaza Strip. -- Reuters