TEL AVIV (May. 31)
Israel’s two-week-old battle against Hezbollah guerrillas escalated Sunday with a new wave of air raids and assault helicopter attacks on targets in eastern and southern Lebanon.
Reports from the target areas said planes and helicopters made three sorties between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. According to Israeli sources, the first target was a Hezbollah training camp in the Janta region of the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, about three miles from the Syrian border.
A military spokesman said all aircraft returned safely to their bases. Syria claimed its anti-aircraft gunners hit and damaged one of them in a raid over the Bekaa Valley.
According to foreign news agencies, Hezbollah sealed off the area to prevent the news media from approaching. But dense clouds of smoke could be seen rising from the targets, the reports said.
Two missile-firing Cobra helicopters were used demolish the homes of two leaders of the pro-Iranian Islamic fundamentalist group Sunday.
One, belonging to Ibrahim Jamal Karim in Bir a-Sanusul, was destroyed by three air-to-ground missiles. Other helicopters blasted the home of Ali Abdel Kerim Yasin in Majdal Shams. Both are local Hezbollah commanders. According to local reports, both buildings were empty.
Israel has been using helicopters for pinpoint attacks on individual Hezbollah leaders or their property. But on Friday, troops were used.
Israel Defense Force soldiers swept out of the southern Lebanon security zone to occupy Arnoun village while bulldozers knocked down houses. Other Israeli troops blew up a house on the outskirts of Yater village and planted road mines that killed three guerrillas who drove by.
It was the first IDF ground action outside the security zone since Israeli troops attempted to knock out Katyusha rocket batteries in Yater and Kafra villages in February.