IDF to Continue Ground Ops Despite Losses; Fewer Katyushas Hit North

Eli Ashkenazi
Yuval Yoaz
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Eli Ashkenazi
Yuval Yoaz

Limited Israel Defense Forces ground operations along the Lebanese border will continue, despite casualties among IDF soldiers, Major General Benny Ganz, commander of the ground forces, said last night during a briefing to the press.

"The increase in losses is a matter of definition and attitude," Ganz said with reference to the news that three IDF soldiers were killed yesterday in fighting with Hezbollah gunmen north of the border town of Avivim.

"We hurt for every fallen fighter and every injured soldier, but the soldiers are at the forefront of the battle to prevent attacks against Israel," he said. "Even when we suffer casualties in the fighting, it is important, and therefore it must go on."

Noting that Hezbollah's bunkers are well camouflaged and thus cannot be discerned until soldiers are very close to them, Ganz described the operations as "challenging, difficult and complicated. This is serious fighting for which the enemy prepared. But so did we. Unfortunately, there is a cost in casualties. But the other side, unlike us, does not report its losses."

According to IDF estimates, between six and ten Hezbollah cells suffered casualties in the fighting with IDF ground units.

Referring to the massive bombing raid on a Hezbollah bunker complex in Beirut two nights ago, Ganz said that the intelligence services are now trying to determine the results of the attack, which targeted the Hezbollah leadership.

"Overall, the attack was quite effective," he said. However, he stressed that it would be premature to draw any conclusions from the relatively small number of Katyusha rockets fired against Israel yesterday and the fact that Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah has not personally given a statement to the press for a few days.

Some 40 Katyusha rockets landed in northern Israel yesterday, making it a relatively quiet day. During the morning, Katyushas landed in Tiberias, Amiad, Carmiel and the upper Galilee, but mainly hit fields. No casualties were reported. Later in the day, two salvos hit the upper Galilee, but again caused no casualties.

In the early afternoon, an alarm sounded in Haifa, but no rockets landed. Other rockets targeted the area around Avivim, where ground forces battled Hezbollah gunmen in the afternoon.

Brigadier General Yuval Tzur, head of the navy's General Staff, said yesterday that four days ago, Israel acceded to a request by several countries to allow their citizens to be evacuated from Lebanon. Now, he said, Israel plans to expand that agreement to include ports other than Beirut, due to the difficulty that civilians are experiencing in moving around the country.

However, Tzur added, Israel made it clear that it could not guarantee the safety of the foreign ships.

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