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HIGHEST ISRAELI FATALITIES

At Least 10 IDF Soldiers Were Hit In Renewed Fighting In Bint Jbail

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: IDF Operation Must Continue Despite High Price In Casualties

Israel Will Hold A Hezbollah Free Zone Two Kilometers Inside Lebanese Border Until Lebanese Army and International Force Move In

Bint Jbail in south Lebanon

In South Lebanon, intense fighting flared up when IDF troops moved into the Hezbollah stronghold of Bint Jbail to clear out the remaining guerrillas. At least ten IDF Soldiers were hit. But despite the high casualties, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the IDF operation would continue.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

The IDF has suffered its highest casualties in the two-week war with Hezbollah. At least ten soldiers were hit in firefights inside the guerrilla stronghold of Bint Jbail.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert got news of the IDF fatalities while briefing the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Those present said he did not show any sign of wavering in his resolve to eliminate the Hezbollah threat. After receiving written notes of the fatalities, Olmert declared that to stop now would mean paying an even higher price in the future. He went on to say that Hezbollah has now been expelled from a two- kilometer zone along the Lebanese border and will not be allowed to return. This would prevent friction with IDF patrols and bar Hezbollah from firing straight at Israeli soldiers and civilians across the border. The long-term goal was that the Lebanese Army would take control of the border area. However, this would take time. Until then an international intervention unit with a mandate to use force would move in. It would differ entirely from the current UNIFIL monitors. Later a multi- national force would back up the Lebanese army in line with U.N. resolution 1559.

Olmert today

Israel would wind up the military operation as soon as possible. But not before achieving results to justify the high price already paid or that would have been paid in the future in lieu of the operation.

Today Katyusha squads launched more missiles into Galilee. Olmert said that mobilizing another two IDF divisions could alarm the Syrians. And he added: Syria is not within the scope of our military operations. This message had been conveyed to Damascus. At the same time, Israel was closely monitoring Syrians moves and had mobilized enough forces to cope with a Syrian attack. Summing up, the PM said: I don't know if and when there will be a cease-fire.

Todays IDF fatalities have sharpened the public debate now raging about escalating ground operations in south Lebanon. Some retired IDF generals have called for committing more ground troops. This is also the opinion of MK Aryeh Eldad of the National Union:

 

(Insert: Aryeh Eldad)

But Labors Danny Yatom, a retired IDF general argues that more IDF boots on the ground could mean more Israeli casualties. He supports the policy of sending in limited but crack units to root out Hezbollah from their underground bunkers.

 

(Insert: Danny Yatom)  

But although opinions differed on an expanded ground operation, Ehud Olmert left with a strong show of support from committee members to carry on the battle with Hezbollah.

David Essing

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