Funerals Held for Six Slain Soldiers As Israel Vows Killers Will Be Caught
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Funerals Held for Six Slain Soldiers As Israel Vows Killers Will Be Caught

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Six Israeli soldiers were buried in military ceremonies in their hometowns Monday after falling victim to terrorist action on Sunday.

News reports said Israel bombarded Lebanese targets of the pro-Iranian group Hezbollah in retaliation for a terror operation Sunday that killed five soldiers and wounded five more, four of them seriously. The killings occurred in the Israeli-controlled security zone.

A sixth soldier was shot and killed the same day by an armed Palestinian while standing guard on a rooftop outlook post in the West Bank town of Hebron, near the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The victim was 1st Sgt. Shmuel Gersh, 32, a reservist from Rishon le-Zion.

The Hebron attack resulted in the wounding of a second soldier, who was hit when a gunman fired automatic bursts from an alley and escaped in a waiting car. The army imposed a curfew on the city in a search for the killer.

No sooner had the six soldiers been buried Thursday than there were reports of another terrorist incident in the West Bank, this one involving the firebombing of a car driven by a Jewish farmer from Moshav Yarhiv.

The farmer, Binyamin Golan, 35, was seriously wounded in the attack, which occurred near the Arab village of Habla, just south of Kalkilya. Golan, who had been driving two of his workers home, was taken to Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikvah, where he was treated for burns to his face.

In the operation in Lebanon, terrorists detonated by remote control a bomb placed at the side of a road in the eastern sector of the buffer zone, near Kawkabeh village. It exploded near a troop-carrying truck that was bringing up the rear of a supply convoy of seven vehicles.

The roadside bomb was set off as a so-called “safari” truck passed a curve in the road about 200 yards from a post usually protected by Norwegian troops of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. But the post was unoccupied Sunday for reasons that are not yet clear.

It was detonated by one or more men who slipped past the UNIFIL post after passing through areas controlled by the Lebanese army south of the Bekaa Valley.

The road had been swept for mines and bombs by a security unit in the morning, and several other convoys had traveled over it prior to the attack.

The blast impacted on an open-sided truck with two rows of seats facing outward to afford troops a clear field of any firepower that might come from either side. The vehicle gets its name because of its similarity to vehicles that carry tourists on African safaris.

Responsibility for the blast was claimed by Hezbollah, which has recently stepped up operations against Israeli and allied South Lebanon Army troops in the border security zone.

The Moslem fundamentalist terrorists have demonstrated increasing organizational and technical skill in recent months, analysts say.

Israel carried out an intensive artillery bombardment of Hezbollah targets north of the security zone Monday afternoon and evening, while Israeli air force planes and helicopters patrolled wide areas of Lebanon, reports said.

Hezbollah leaders and many local residents earlier fled their homes to escape what they regarded as an inevitable Israeli response.

The Israeli chief of staff made a visit Monday to the scene of Sunday’s attack and said that Hezbollah bore the main responsibility for the incident and would not go unpunished.

But responsibility also lay with the Lebanese and Syrian governments, said Lt. Gen. Ehud Barak.

Lebanon had failed to disarm Hezbollah, as it had other terror groups, said Barak. And Syria controls the areas where the Hezbollah is based and allows Iranian arms to reach its ranks.

The soldiers killed in the Lebanon attack have been identified as 2nd Lt. Eran Shoham, 21, of Kochav Yair; Cpl. Niv Amouyal, 19, of Hatzeva, in the Arava; Sgt. Assaf Golan, 19, of Yishai, near Bet Shemesh; Sgt. Avraham Asoulin, 20, of Acre; and Cpl. Sirhan Wassam, 20, of Rama, a Bedouin town in the Negev.

(Contributing to this report was JTA correspondent Gil Sedan in Jerusalem.)

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