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Israel Strikes Deep in Lebanon

Youssef Srour prays on the grounds of what was a mosque in Aita Ech Chaab, Lebanon. The village was the site of a fierce battle between Hezbollah and Israeli forces during the war.
Youssef Srour prays on the grounds of what was a mosque in Aita Ech Chaab, Lebanon. The village was the site of a fierce battle between Hezbollah and Israeli forces during the war. (By Spencer Platt -- Getty Images)

"We have put the matter forward in a serious manner and the U.N. delegation was understanding of the seriousness of the situation," Murr said. "We are awaiting an answer."

Israeli officials have said they are counting on the arrival of an international peacekeeping force to guarantee that the arms shipments stop. About 50 French military engineers arrived in southern Lebanon as a vanguard of the European and other soldiers who, under the U.N. resolution, will be assigned to reinforce the 2,000-member United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

But France and other European nations have expressed reluctance to commit troops to the operation until its U.N. mandate is clearly laid out. France, which was expected to provide several thousand troops, has limited its new contribution to 200. As a result, negotiations on assembling, transporting and tasking the additional peacekeepers could drag out in the days ahead, increasing the risk of cease-fire violations.

Boudai, which lies in the foothills of the Mount Lebanon chain about 10 miles northwest of Baalbek, has long been known as a Hezbollah stronghold. Local officials speculated that a senior Hezbollah leader, Sheik Mohammed Yazbek, may have been the commandos' target. Other Lebanese suggested that the raid may have been an attempt to recover two Israeli soldiers whose seizure by Hezbollah commandos on July 12 precipitated the war.

The Israeli military, however, specified that preventing the transport of weapons was its objective. "The goals were achieved in full," it added in a statement.

Lebanese residents and security officials reported that Israeli planes were heard in the Bekaa Valley through the night, prompting fears of a raid. When they landed around 5 a.m., the Israeli special troops drove toward Boudai in two vehicles transported into Lebanon by helicopters, they said. When challenged, the Israelis identified themselves as Lebanese army troops, but the ploy failed and Hezbollah fighters opened fire, they added.

Hezbollah fighters found bloody bandages and syringes on the ground after the battle, leading them to conclude that the Israelis suffered casualties, according to Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh, a Hezbollah ally. Hezbollah's al-Manar television reported a number of Israeli casualties but did not say whether they were killed or wounded.

Lebanese security officials told the Reuters news agency that three Hezbollah fighters were killed, but Hezbollah did not confirm the toll.

Correspondent Doug Struck in Jerusalem contributed to this report.


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