2 IDF troops killed, 13 wounded in S. Lebanon, 5 from friendly fire
5 soldiers wounded by friendly fire; infantry enters Bint Jbail; UNIFIL: 4 UN troops hurt by IDF shell.
Israel Air Force missiles that struck a house in south Lebanon early Tuesday killed seven people and wounded one other, Lebanese hospital and security officials said.
IAF jets fired a missile at the house in the market town of Nabatiyeh, destroying it and killing its owner, a man named Mohammed Ghandour, along with six other people including his son Hassan. It was not immediate clear if the five others killed were related. One woman was also wounded, according to the officials.
It was not immediately clear why the IAF had targeted the Ghandour house.
The attack came a day after Israel Defense Forces troops battled their way to a key Hezbollah stronghold in south Lebanon, seizing a hilltop in heavy fighting and capturing two guerrillas, according to the IDF.
Two IDF soldier killed, 13 hurt in south LebanonTwo Israel Defense Forces soldiers were killed and 13 troops were wounded Monday morning during combat in southern Lebanon town of Bint Jbail, a Hezbollah stronghold.
The IDF believes Hezbollah, which does not release details about casualties it sustains, lost at least 10 gunmen in the battle.
One of the soldiers suffered serious wounds and two were hurt moderately.
Five of the wounded soldiers were hit by friendly fire from IAF aircraft. Their wounds are listed as light to moderate.
Nearly constant gunfire and explosions could be heard coming from southern Lebanon on the Israeli side of the border, and large plumes of gray smoke rose over the area. Hezbollah guerrillas also fired mortars into northern Israel and anti-tank missiles at Israeli forces, the IDF said.
It said at least one IDF tank was hit by Hezbollah fire. The army denied Arabic media reports that five tanks were destroyed.
IDF tanks and armored bulldozers were seen heading toward battle, but two tanks also traversed the rocky hills in the other direction at high speed, crossing back into Israel to carry wounded soldiers out. The wounded were taken to civilian ambulances, which sped off toward hospitals with sirens blaring.
After the troops were wounded Monday afternoon, infantry from the IDF's Golani Brigade entered the village.
Bint Jbail, a major town, is about 2 kilometers north of the hilltop village of Maroun al-Ras, another Hezbollah center. Over the weekend, IDF ground troops fought for control of Maroun al-Ras, which is less than 500 meters from the border.
The IDF estimates it needs between a week to ten days to continue its offensive in Lebanon before a cease-fire can be called.
In light of its recent estimation, the IDF is expanding the deployment of its forces in southern Lebanon.
Two soldiers sustained moderate wounds and the rest were lightly hurt. A battalion commander was moderately wounded when the tank he was riding in drove over a mine in the Bint Jbail area.
IDF officials said earlier that troops had taken control of a hilltop near Bint Jbail after a heavy artillery barrage.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon said Monday night that an IDF tank shell hit a position run by UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon on Monday, wounding four Ghanaian soldiers. The four soldiers were evacuated to a UNIFIL hospital at the border town of Naqoura, Milos Strugar said in a statement. The shell also caused extensive damage to the position near the village of Rmeish, he said.
IDF boosts troops in LebanonLarge numbers of IDF forces crossed the border Sunday night as the IDF expanded its presence in southern Lebanon, and the Hezbollah announced that the IDF has taken over the village of Maroun Ras, where the two sides fought a tough battle during the past 48 hours.
Hezbollah admitted in a statement Sunday that IDF troops had taken over the village, but called the move a defeat for Israel.
"An army that fights with excellent forces and tanks with the assistance of an air force cannot go into a village directly on the border except after a battle that has continued for days with great losses against a number of opposition fighters is a failed and defeated army," read the statement.
Meanwhile, IDF soldiers captured two Hezbollah fighters during a battle in south Lebanon, IDF officials said early Monday.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters, had no further details. The IDF had no immediate comment.
Army Radio reported that the two were the first prisoners Israeli forces have taken in the current offensive.
Also Sunday, Syrian Information Minister Muhsan Bilal warned that Syria would not remain idle if Israel invades Lebanon, explaining that a penetration of southern Lebanon would bring Israeli ground forces within 20 kilometers of Damascus.
Senior officers told Haaretz on Sunday night that the operation was moving "slowly and carefully, under heavy fire, from the air, tanks and artillery, in order to soften up resistance."
The government had not yet approved a ground operation in the area south of the port city of Tyre, where many of the rocket attacks against Haifa are known to have originated. On the other hand, it appears that the IDF will soon take similar action against rocket attacks targeting the Galilee panhandle.
Over the last few days, the IDF called up reservists in a unit that takes responsibility for the civilian population in areas under military control. GOC Northern Command Major General Udi Adam said no other reservists are being sent to southern Lebanon at this time, but that the IDF should prepare for the possibility that there will be another call-up.
There was relatively little combat in Maroun Ras on Sunday, the 12th day of fighting in Lebanon. More paratroopers entered the area around dawn, accompanied by members of the Armored and Engineering Corps, and took control of key positions in the outskirts of the village. They also prepared to bomb bunkers and weapons caches there.
The troops met up with relatively little opposition, a sign that most Hezbollah operatives had already withdrawn from the area.
Some 30 Hezbollah fighters were killed by the IDF during battles in Maroun Ras. The IDF was preparing to bring the bodies of some of them back into Israel.
An officer with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon was seriously wounded near the village, and flown to an Israeli hospital. The IDF said he was hurt by Hezbollah fire.
The paratroopers are holding positions that are located up to three kilometers into Lebanese territory. Additional forces now being sent in will apparently take over hilltops within a similar depth.
"The depth here doesn't matter at all," said General Adam. "There are places we have to enter from a tactical perspective and there are places we don't have to go into."
The Israel Air Force bombed hundreds of targets in Lebanon on Sunday, focusing on rocket launchers in the Tyre region, from which Hezbollah has been launching Katyushas at Haifa. Despite the IAF bombings, rocket fire continued to rain down on the Haifa region. The air force also struck targets in the Bekaa area, and provided air cover for ground forces operating in southern Lebanon.
"The air campaign is not yet completed. I think that all in all, we are making progress," said Adam. Calling for patience, he added: "The idea is to finish this with a victory."
Lebanese fatalities reach 384 as IDF focuses strikes on southFatalities among the Lebanese topped 384 on Monday, including 20 Lebanese Army soldiers and 11 Hezbollah fighters.
According to reports from Lebanon, Israeli attacks focused Monday on the south of the country, with the Israel Defense Forces refraining from shelling Beirut during the visit to the city of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
At least one person was killed Monday in the village of Safad a-Batiah, near Bint Jbail, where heavy fighting continued throughout the day. According to reports, the man was buried under the ruins of his home after it was targeted from the air by Israeli planes.
Other Lebanese locations targeted Monday included sites in Nabatiyeh, Tyre and the Ansaria Bridge in the Sidon area.
Also targeted Monday, from both the air and the sea, was the Rafadiyeh refugee camp close to Tyre. This was the first time the camp has come under fire since the start of the fighting. One Palestinian was killed and 15 others were hurt in the attack.