The Associated Press
Saturday, August 12, 2006; 11:05 PM
JERUSALEM -- Nineteen Israeli soldiers were killed Saturday during an expanded offensive in Lebanon, the army said, making it the highest one-day toll for the Jewish state since the war against Hezbollah erupted.
The deaths, which occurred in several battles in Lebanon throughout the day, brought to more than 100 the number of Israeli troops killed so far.
In its statement Sunday, the military also said that a five member crew of a downed helicopter was missing.
The transport helicopter was shot down by Hezbollah guerillas. Only the crew were on board at the time, the army said.
Hezbollah said, in a claim carried on Hezbollah's al-Manar TV, that the helicopter was brought down by a new missile, the "Waad" (Arabic for Promise) in the guerrilla arsenal. Israel's Channel 10 TV reported the helicopter brought down by anti-tank missile.
It was Israel's first loss of a helicopter in Lebanon in the monthlong conflict. Two helicopters collided and crashed and a third crashed separately in northern Israel early on in the fighting.
Hezbollah guerrillas have crippled an Israeli warship with a missile July 15.
The helicopter was shot down in the Maryamein valley near the village of Yater, and other helicopters scrambled to the area to try to rescue the crew.
Hezbollah reported a gunbattle raged as Israeli troops tried to retrieve the crew members from the downed chopper, according to a statement issued by the group.
Reports from some Arab media that several Israeli soldiers had been killed could not immediately be verified.
Hundreds of Israeli troops were airlifted to positions deep inside southern Lebanon on Saturday and tanks punched across terrain in an attempt to grab more territory before an expected cessation of hostilities Monday morning.