Capitol Hill Blue
Israelis raid Lebanon in cease-fire violation
By SAM F. GHATTAS
Aug 19, 2006, 06:09
Witnesses said that took effect Monday following 34 days of fighting.
The Israeli army said the special forces operation aimed "to prevent and interfere with terror activity against Israel, especially the smuggling of arms from Iran and Syria to Hezbollah." It said the commando team completed its mission.
The army said such operations would be carried out until "an effective monitoring unit" of Lebanese or multinational troops was in place.
"If the Syrians and Iran continue to arm Hezbollah in violation of the (U.N. cease-fire) resolution, Israel is entitled to act to defend the principle of the arms embargo," Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to release information to the media, said the
Such a bold operation and suggested Israel was going after a major target near Baalbek — perhaps to rescue two Israeli soldiers snatched by Hezbollah on July 12, or to try to capture a senior guerrilla official to trade for the soldiers.
Hezbollah has said it wants to exchange the two soldiers for Arab prisoners, but the U.N. cease-fire resolution demands Hezbollah unconditionally release the soldiers.
Local media said Sheik Mohammed Yazbeck, a senior Hezbollah official in the Bekaa and a member of the Shura council of the group, may have been the target. Yazbeck is a native of Boudai.
Israeli troops have killed several guerrillas who Israel said threatened its troops in south Lebanon since the cease-fire, and . But the cease-fire allows military action in self-defense, and the commando raid was by far the most serious incident since Monday.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said Lebanese authorities found blood at the scene of the raid, indicating Israeli casualties. Salloukh, speaking to reporters after meeting with U.N. envoy Terje Roed-Larsen in Beirut, said he informed the U.N. team of the Israeli action in Baalbek and said the U.N. team would raise the issue with Israeli authorities.
"If Israel continues its violations, it is the responsibility of the (U.N.) Security Council to take action and ask Israel to stop these violations," he said.
Hezbollah officials on the scene said
The commandos identified themselves as the Lebanese army, but the guerrillas grew suspicious and gunfire erupted, the officials said.
Israeli helicopters fired missiles as the commandos withdrew and flew out of the area an hour later, they said.
Overflights were reported Friday night in the same area.
Israel said late Friday its warplanes have not attacked Lebanon since the cease-fire took effect.
Baalbek is the birthplace of the Iranian and Syrian-backed Hezbollah. The area in the eastern Bekaa Valley, 60 miles north of the Israeli border, is a major guerrilla stronghold.
The U.N. Security Council cease-fire resolution calls for an immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations.
In letters to Lebanese and Israeli leaders, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has warned the two countries against occupying additional territory and told them to refrain from responding to any attacks "except where clearly required in immediate self-defense."
Annan also told Israel and Lebanon that once the cessation of hostilities took effect there must be no firing from the ground, sea or air into the other side's territory or at its forces.