TEL AVIV (Aug. 29)
The Israeli soldiers killed in southern Lebanon on Aug. 19 were on a mission to retrieve expensive Israeli military equipment that had been left in the field and was apparently later booby-trapped by Hezbollah forces.
According to a Jerusalem Post report Sunday, Israel Defense Force officials had previously denied speculation that the Hezbollah mines had been laid near military equipment apparently forgotten or abandoned in the field.
But it has since been confirmed that some two weeks before the deadly incident, a group of Israeli officers on a mission in the Shihin area of southern Lebanon had left a few pieces of very expensive equipment in the field.
An intelligence source is quoted by the Post as saying that on the night of Aug. 14 a group of Hezbollah guerrillas had found the devices.
But rather than stealing the equipment, the guerrillas used it as bait for the IDF soldiers, who were certain to return for it. The guerrillas surrounded the equipment with mines, which they connected to tripwires.
Five days later, the IDF patrol that lost seven men was sent to pick up the devices.
It is not known why the unit waited so long to retrieve the missing equipment.
The dispatch later that day of the second patrol, which lost two additional men, has been criticized by senior military officers.
They maintain the area should have been cleared of any more mines with a special explosive device before the second group was sent out.