Five Israeli soldiers were wounded, four of them seriously, during attacks launched this week by members of the Islamic fundamentalist Hezbollah movement in the southern Lebanon security zone.
Two members of the Israeli-allied South Lebanon Army were killed during the heavy fighting on Wednesday.
Four Israeli soldiers sustained serious injuries, mostly from shrapnel, when Hezbollah members detonated a roadside charge near their patrol in the western sector of the security zone.
The fifth soldier was wounded in a separate battle in the zone’s eastern sector.
Reports from Lebanon said Israeli fighter planes retaliated, blasting Hezbollah targets north of the security zone.
The clashes took place the same day that the leader of the militant Islamic Jihad movement, Dr. Fathi Shakaki, was buried in Syria.
Shakaki was gunned down by unknown assailants Oct. 26 in Malta. Islamic Jihad officials blamed Israel, saying that Israel acted in collusion with the CIA.
Israeli leaders welcomed Shakaki’s demise, but would neither confirm not deny their participation in the killing.
A reported 40,000 Palestinians shouted anti-Israel slogans during Shakaki’s funeral at a cemetery near Damascus.
Israel has long maintained that Syria, with an estimated 30,000 troops in Lebanon, could rein in Hezbollah, but chooses not to in order to force Israeli concessions in the long-stalled Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said that Israel could expect further bloody confrontations with Hezbollah until it reaches a peace deal with Damascus.
“Know this: Without a diplomatic solution with Syria, we’ll have to pay a bloody price in Lebanon,” Rabin said in an interview.
Twenty-two Israeli soldiers have been killed so far this year in the fighting with Hezbollah, one more than perished during all of the previous year.
The mounting death toll has prompted some Israelis to call for the withdrawal of the 1,000 IDF troops stationed in the 9-mile-wide security zone, which Israel established in 1985 to protect its northern border from terrorist attacks.