Fri, Jul 21, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Fierce fighting reported in south Lebanon

AGENCIES , JERUSALEM

Two Hezbollah militiamen were killed and five Israeli soldiers wounded in fierce fighting yesterday during a new Israeli cross-border incursion into Lebanese territory, the army said.

"Two Hezbollah men were killed in exchanges of fire north of Avivim," an Israeli army spokesman told reporters.

Three Israeli soldiers were wounded, one seriously, when an anti-tank rocket was fired at an armored vehicle during the battle, he said. Two soldiers were wounded in another clash between the army and Hezbollah along the volatile border.

The army, which has been waging a massive air, sea and ground offensive against Lebanon for nine days, has said its troops are regularly conducting "pinpoint" raids against Hezbollah posts.

General Alon Friedman told army radio that the troops were "operating to destroy Hezbollah infrastructure and underground bunkers in particular."

Cabinet secretary Israel Maimon told public radio that the army was prepared to launch a large-scale ground operation but not now.

Hezbollah said in a statement that its mujahidin had destroyed two tanks in the ongoing fighting: "In vain, Zionist enemy soldiers try to advance toward Lebanese territory to achieve military victories, and again Hezbollah confronts them and proves to them that they are an army without soldiers."

Support for the war against Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas remains firm in Israel, but questions are starting to surface over the effectiveness of the week-old blitz.

"Hezbollah remains the same intransigent rival as before. It is showing no signs of breaking," wrote Amos Harel in Haaretz, a usually dovish newspaper that has generally backed the war.

In related news, Israel yesterday welcomed any help that Germany could give in trying to free the two Israeli soldiers captured by Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, but emphasized it would not discuss a prisoner swap. Hezbollah is seeking an exchange of prisoners similar to one it made with German mediation in 2004.

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