TEL AVIV (Oct. 23)
An Israeli soldier injured in last week’s suicide car-bomb attack in Lebanon died of his wounds Saturday, becoming the eighth fatality in the bloody attack.
Motti Steier, a 21-year-old Israel Defense Force captain, succumbed to wounds sustained last Wednesday, when an explosive-laden Toyota blew up in the middle of an IDF convoy patrolling the southern Lebanon security zone, just over the border from Metulla.
Seven other soldiers were instantly killed in the attack, and eight, including Steier, were wounded.
One of the seven surviving soldiers who were wounded was reported in critical condition, and another was reported to be in “very serious” condition.
The IDF has identified the terrorists responsible for the carnage, including the driver of the death car. Authorities are holding one man in custody, who is suspected of being an accomplice.
Steier, who came from Kiryat Ono, died a day after Israel Air Force jets and helicopter gunships carried out wide-ranging reprisal raids on Hezbollah and Palestinian positions in southern Lebanon.
The targets were said to include terrorist bases outside of Sidon, and Mashghara and Aluweza villages in the Bekaa Valley to the east. Some time later, targets were also attacked in the Maidoun area of the Bekaa Valley.
AT LEAST 12 KILLED IN RAIDS
At least 12 people were killed in the raids Friday, and the total number of casualties was said to be as high as 36. From the explosions that followed the Sidon region raid, it appeared that an ammunitions dump had been hit and blown up.
The Hezbollah or Party of God, an amorphous group of Lebanese Shiite extremists supported by Iran, claimed credit for the car-bombing. The group had warned Israel that any retaliatory operation would endanger Israeli prisoners and other hostages they hold.
The United States also reportedly had asked Israel not to retaliate against the Hezbollah, out of concern for the American hostages. Israeli forces went ahead and attacked Hezbollah positions, but stayed clear of the area around Beirut, where the Americans are said to be held.
Meanwhile, an IDF spokesman announced Saturday night that security forces uncovered the Shiite terrorist squad that planned and executed the car-bombing.
The driver of the suicide car was identified as Abdallah Atwah of Beirut, whose family lives in the security zone.
A man taken into custody from north of the security zone was said by IDF sources to have accompanied Atwah part of the way and instructed him how to hit the convoy. The man was not identified.
According to the IDF, the 300 pounds of explosives used in the blast were probably smuggled into the security zone from outside and transferred to the car at one of the Shiite villages inside the zone.
The Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army helped in the investigation. Since last week, it has detained and questioned 50 Lebanese suspected of aiding Hezbollah.