Commando Raid in Tyre Kills Senior Hezbollah Operatives

Naval commandos raided a Hezbollah apartment in Tyre before dawn yesterday and hit senior operatives of the organization, who the Israel Defense Forces say were involved, among other things, in firing the rockets on Hadera Friday night.

The IDF said that at least six Hezbollah men were killed in the operation. Eight naval commandos were wounded, including an officer and a soldier in serious condition.

The commandos landed by sea in Tyre and, based on precise intelligence, reached an apartment in which Hezbollah operatives were staying. The small apartment is on the second floor of a five-story building in the northern part of the city. The commandos burst into the apartment and a shoot-out ensued at close-range, during which grenades were also thrown. T hree Hezbollah men were killed, among them the operatives who were the target of the mission. In the exchange of fire several commandos were also wounded, including one who was badly hurt by a bullet to his upper body.

After the brief battle, the commandos exited the house and organized for a secure return to the prearranged collection point. The exit took place under cover of fire from Israeli planes and helicopters. At this stage, the troops encountered additional Hezbollah men, members of the organization's security forces deployed in the area. More shoot-outs erupted, in which additional Hezbollah men were killed. Several naval commandos were also wounded, including a reserve soldier - the second fighter to be badly wounded. The commandos carried the two serious casualties on stretchers while engaged in fighting the Hezbollah men.

Despite the shooting, the extrication of the force worked as planned and the commandos left Lebanese soil at 5 A.M., shortly after hitting the apartment. The two badly-wounded commandos were hospitalized at Rambam Medical Center, Haifa. The lesser casualties, mostly suffering from shrapnel wounds, were briefly treated and discharged.

Lebanese sources said that the battle lasted several hours and that six Lebanese had been killed, including a Lebanese Army soldier and several Hezbollah men. The soldier was at a checkpoint nearby. Hezbollah claimed that it managed to scare off the naval commandos - a claim denied by the IDF, which says that the force left Tyre after completing its mission.

A senior naval officer said yesterday that the commando operation "was carried out in an area crowded with buildings and very complicated for fighting. The unit displayed very high professional capability and operated based on precise intelligence. This operation conveys a very clear message. After all, we could have hit the apartment from the air, but we wanted to be selective in the hit. We knew they were hiding behind civilians and since we wanted to avoid hitting non-combatants, we prefered to send a ground force." He said that the operation was prepared quickly, a short while after Hadera was hit. "This didn't end the rocket threat on Hadera, but it's another chapter in the ongoing fight," he said.