Hezbollah cuts rocket strikes after IAF aerial assault halt
Hezbollah almost completely ceased its attacks on Israel yesterday, in response to Israel's announcement Sunday night that it would halt most aerial attacks in accordance with an Israeli-American agreement.
After 19 days of intensive Katyusha rocket fire, only five rockets were launched at northern Israel yesterday.
The Israel Defense Forces adhered yesterday to the government's instructions to grant Lebanese civilians a 24-hour window to flee northward. The order was issued following an attack on the Lebanese village of Qana on Sunday that killed dozens of civilians, and thousands of people took advantage of yesterday's opportunity.
In southern Lebanon, the IDF expanded its ground operation, but subject to increased restrictions.
Yesterday, the Israel Air Force bombed only targets that were clearly linked to rocket launching, military sources said. Israel agreed Sunday night to suspend the bulk of its aerial bombardment of Lebanon for 48 hours. However, several senior IDF officers were not immediately informed of the new directive, and found out about it from reporters after the Americans released news of the agreement.
The targets that the IAF bombed yesterday included a truck on the Beirut-Damascus highway, foreign journalists reported. The IDF spokesman said that the truck was suspected of transporting weapons. North of Tyre, a Lebanese soldier was killed when the IAF bombed a vehicle in which a senior Hezbollah official was suspected of traveling. The passengers turned out to be Lebanese army troops, and the IDF apologized for the incident.
On the ground, fighting continued yesterday in the central sector of southern Lebanon, near the village of Taibeh. The IDF reported some 20 Hezbollah casualties in that sector.
Ground forces were instructed yesterday to shoot only at places from which enemy fire has been spotted or where Hezbollah cells have been positively identified. Troops were ordered not to fire on areas from which Hezbollah fires rockets.
Three IDF soldiers were lightly hurt yesterday when an armored personnel carrier overturned near Taibeh. A Merkava tank that came to remove the APC was hit by an antitank missile, but suffered no casualties.
The IDF also expanded its operations in the western sector of southern Lebanon, and military sources said that ground operations are expected to increase significantly over the coming days. The government, they said, has indicated support for such an expansion.
The IDF estimates that the operation could last another four to 10 days. Its two main goals are completing the demolition of Hezbollah outposts along the Lebanon-Israel border ?(i.e. within the "security zone," or up to two kilometers into Lebanese territory?), and searching for and destroying weapons held in villages further to the north.
On Sunday, an explosive device went off on the Syrian side of the border with Israel, near the Quneitra crossing in the northern Golan Heights. There were no casualties. Military sources told Channel 2 television that they suspect the explosion was a Hezbollah attempt to provoke Israel and increase tension between Israel and Syria.
Meanwhile, the IDF Rabbinate recently buried 10 Hezbollah militants at a cemetery for fallen enemies at the Amiad army base in the north, after the IDF brought the bodies into Israel.
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