TEL AVIV (Jul. 18)
Three Israel Defense Force soldiers who were killed in a Hezbollah ambush in southern Lebanon in the wee hours of Wednesday morning were identified Thursday.
The IDF also disclosed details of the incident but did not explain why the casualties were not announced for several hours, after Israeli air force jets and artillery had struck Hezbollah positions.
The men killed in the clash were Capt. Yosef Givilli of Givatayim, commander of the patrol; Lt. Oren Meltzer, 21, of Jerusalem, who was second in command; and 1st Sgt. Yehuda Korkus, 20, of Moshav Rinatya.
Four other Israeli soldiers, including the unit’s doctor, were wounded. All the men belonged to the crack Givati Brigade.
One Hezbollah gunman was killed and five were wounded in an exchange of fire following the ambush.
The IDF made clear that Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shi’ite fundamentalist group, is the primary target of its search-and-destroy patrols in southern Lebanon now that the Palestine Liberation Organization has been largely isolated and disarmed by the Lebanese regular army.
To a lesser extent, the IDF has also targeted Amal, the mainstream Shi’ite militia.
Both groups are active just north of the southern Lebanon security zone. The area includes a Maronite Christian enclave centered on the town of Jezzine, which is protected by the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army.
The IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Ehud Barak, personally debriefed the soldiers involved in Wednesday’s incident, whom he congratulated for their behavior and professionalism under fire.
“The cost was painful,” Barak said, but “the offensive operations against Hezbollah will continue. The IDF prefers acting against terrorists in their bases, not along the border fences of northern settlements,” he said.