Israeli soldiers landing in Baalbek

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Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Israeli commandos landed Wednesday at Baalbek in northeast Lebanon, an area considered to be a Hezbollah stronghold.

The soldiers were airlifted in by helicopter, supported by Israeli warplanes which targeted at least five suspected Hezbollah positions near Baalbek. The helicopters came under heavy Hezbollah fire and had to retreat while the Israeli raid was ongoing.

Israeli aircrafts hit several locations near Baalbek and there was a large amount of helicopter activity east and west of Baalbek, according to the Lebanese army sources.

Hezbollah said Israeli commandos were pinned down inside the Dar al-Hikma Hospital near Baalbek when Hezbollah fighters surrounded the building. The Israeli soldiers inside were said to be checking the identification papers of patients and staff. The skirmishes between the Israeli commandos and Hezbollah fighters lasted several hours. Five Lebanese men were captured by the commandos and subsequently airlifted from the area.

Israeli forces claimed it had killed up to ten Hezbollah fighters and seized five more in Jemmaliyeh, near the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek. Between 16 to 19 civilians, including 4 to 7 children, were reportedly killed. Hospital sources said that 20 people were wounded in the Israeli raids. Police reported that five Lebanese men were captured and taken into Israel by the commando team.

Dan Halutz, Israeli chief of staff, said: "We have carried out this operation to prove that we can hit everywhere in Lebanon". He added: "during the Baalbek operation special forces captured five members of Hezbollah while more than 10 others were hit."

A Hezbollah statement said "the Islamic Resistance announces that it has foiled an Israeli landing operation in Baalbek and denies that the enemy had captured any of its members". Hezbollah claimed those abducted were civilians.


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