Thu, Aug 24, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Israeli army sustains casualties waiting for UN deployment

LEBANON CEASEFIRE The peace agreement provides that Israel can still undertake defensive military actions in south Lebanon if it deems fit

AGENCIES , BEIRUT AND UNITED NATIONS

A farmer drives his tractor by an Israeli tank on the Israel-Lebanon border yesterday. A 10-day-old truce in Lebanon continued to hold as the UN struggled to find European countries ready to put troops between the Israeli army and the Shiite militia Hezbollah.

PHOTO: AFP

An Israeli soldier was killed and three others wounded yesterday in southern Lebanon when their tank drove onto a land mine, Lebanese officials and Arab media said.

Another Israeli soldier was shot in the head during a military operation in the Lebanese border village of Taibeh yesterday, the al-Arabiya satellite TV station also said. The TV station did not specify in which condition the soldier was.

The Israeli military was not immediately available to comment on these reports.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops stationed in the disputed Chebaa Farms where the borders of Lebanon, Syria and Israel meet, opened artillery fire early yesterday on targets in the Lebanon-controlled Chebaa village, Lebanese security officials said.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media, said the intermittent shelling -- which lasted three hours -- was close to Lebanese army positions in Chebaa. None were hit, the officials said.

Israel's army said it opened fire in response to earlier bombings against Israeli territory. It did not specify whether the prior bombings had targeted the Israeli-controlled section of the Chebaa Farms, or other areas.

Lebanese troops entered the village of Chebaa last week for the first time in four decades as part of a larger army deployment in south Lebanon under the UN-brokered ceasefire.

The UN ceasefire enforced on Aug. 14 to end 34 days of ferocious fighting between Israeli troops and Hezbollah guerrillas provides that Israel can still undertake defensive military actions if needed.

Hundreds of Israeli troops have remained on the positions they occupied during the clashes, waiting for a UN peacekeeping force to move into Lebanon and guarantee a buffer zone between Israel and the Hezbollah guerrilla.

Lebanese security officials said the tank that hit a land mine was part of an Israeli unit patrolling between the village of Blida and the UN-demarcated border line, less than 5km deep into Lebanon. This border line was drawn by the UN after Israel withdrew its troops from south Lebanon in 2000, ending an 18-year occupation of the zone.

The Lebanese officials said the Israeli soldiers had entered a minefield -- one of the many left over by the Israelis after their troops withdrew in 2000.

Providing maps for the minefields in Lebanon is required from Israel under the UN ceasefire resolution that ended the latest round of fighting.

Hezbollah guerrillas also have laid mines in the south before and in the course of the recent fighting to stop the Israeli army's ground push.

Meanwhile, new rules of engagement for UN troops in Lebanon permit soldiers to shoot in self-defense, use force to protect civilians and resist armed attempts to interfere with their duties, a UN document says.

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