TEL AVIV (Aug. 9)
Five Israel Defense Force soldiers and a South Lebanon Army militiaman were wounded Wednesday morning, when a truck packed with explosives blew up in the path of a joint IDF-SLA convoy in southern Lebanon.
Two of the Israelis sustained serious injuries and were later reported to be in critical condition. There also appear to have been two people inside the truck that exploded.
Shortly after the attack, which occurred in the border security zone controlled by Israel, the Islamic fundamentalist Hezbollah, or Party of God, claimed responsibility.
In Beirut, Subhi Tufeili, described as commander of Hezbollah’s military arm, said the attack had been planned to “speed the release” of Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid, the Hezbollah leader whom Israeli commandos captured and brought to Israel on July 28.
Tufeili said one of those who perpetrated the attack was a close friend of Obeid’s.
The attack occurred near the village of Kleya, just north of the Israeli border town of Metulla.
According to military sources, the perpetrators parked their red pickup truck at the side of a narrow road and joined the convoy in a gap between two of the army vehicles.
The truck, packed with an estimated 550 pounds of explosives, then blew up, killing the attackers and putting a 12-foot-wide crater in the middle of the road.
RETALIATION COULD BE RISKY
Casualties and damage were confined to the truck and the vehicle carrying the six soldiers. Army regulations specify a minimum distance to be maintained between vehicles in a convoy, to minimize casualties from such an attack.
The wounded soldiers were taken by helicopter to Rambam Hospital in Haifa. Sources said their wounds would have been far more serious had they not been wearing flak jackets.
IDF and SLA troops searched the area to try to ascertain how the suicide bombers had managed to drive to the point of the incident without being halted for a routine search.
Military commentators suggested that the quarter-ton of explosives had been smuggled into the security zone in small quantities, since transportation of such a large quantity in one batch would certainly have been discovered.
Commentators also said Israel was now faced with a dilemma about whether to retaliate for the incident, since such a move could adversely impact imminent negotiations for the release of Israeli soldiers and Western hostages being held by Shiite groups in Lebanon.
After a car-bombing last year that caused heavy IDF casualties, Hezbollah warned that any retaliation would endanger the Israeli prisoners.
But after serious deliberation, the defense establishment opted to go ahead anyway, and ordered the Israeli air force to bomb Hezbollah headquarters in Lebanon.