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3 Israelis dead, 1 wounded in southern Lebanon blast

JERUSALEM, Jan. 30 (JTA) — Three Israeli soldiers were killed and another was moderately wounded in a roadside explosion in southern Lebanon. The three dead soldiers were identified as Lt. Yehonaton Tsirkel, 21, of Kibbutz Shuval, Sgt. Rotem Sharvit, 18, of Jerusalem, and Sgt. Niv Sadan, 19, of Kibbutz Megiddo. Reacting to Thursday’s attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Syria, which has some 40,000 troops stationed in Lebanon, to press Hezbollah to cease its attacks on Israeli troops. “A very appropriate gesture would be the cessation of this indirect war that is being conducted against Israel and its soldiers in Lebanon,” Netanyahu told reporters. Netanyahu said the Israel Defense Force is facing a difficult mission in southern Lebanon, but that Israel would do all that is necessary to resolve the problem. Israeli troops occupy a 15-mile-wide security zone in southern Lebanon, which it patrols along with its ally, the South Lebanon Army. The soldiers, members of the Nahal brigade, were on patrol in the central sector of the security zone, when Hezbollah detonated the charge shortly after midnight, killing the three troops who were leading the patrol, and wounding a fourth. The evacuation of the wounded took several hours because of rough terrain, poor weather conditions and a need to comb the area for additional bombs. The head of the IDF northern command, Maj. Gen. Amiram Levine, said it was likely that Hezbollah had the patrol under surveillance before it decided to set off the charge. The soldiers were from the same unit that earlier this month lost another member in a clash with Amal fighters. The chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Likud Knesset member Uzi Landau, said after Thursday’s attack that the government’s efforts to renew peace talks with Syria were sending a message to Hezbollah that it would be rewarded for its violence. Landau said the attacks on Israeli troops would continue, as long as Syria did not have to pay a price. “We have to make it clear to Syria that we will not accept such a dual situation. We have to make it clear that they will pay a price,” Landau told Israel Radio.