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Israel kills five Hezbollah gunmen

JERUSALEM, Aug. 5 (JTA) — Fighting escalated again this week in southern Lebanon, where Israeli soldiers killed five Hezbollah gunmen, including two area commanders, in a clash north of the security zone. No Israeli troops were hurt in Monday’s operation, which was carried out by members of the Golani Brigade. Hezbollah confirmed that five of its fighters had been killed by roadside charges set off by Israeli troops. It also said that three Lebanese civilians and two Hezbollah members were wounded in the blast. Reports from Lebanon identified two of the dead as Sheik Taissir Badran, commander of Hezbollah forces around Nabatiya, and Hussein Kassir, who directed operations from the Lebanese village of Kfour. The commander of the Golani Brigade said the Hezbollah fighters killed in the explosions had been involved in two 1995 attacks, in which nine members of the brigade were killed. In further fighting, Israeli planes rocketed suspected Hezbollah targets Tuesday in the Bekaa Valley north of the security zone. The pilots reported hits and returned safely to base. Unconfirmed reports from Lebanon said two civilians were killed and four others wounded in the raid. Israeli forces have been on heightened alert for possible retaliation for Monday’s killings. The deputy secretary of Hezbollah, Sheik Nae’em Kassem, told a crowd at the funeral in Nabatiya for four of the gunmen that Hezbollah would carry out suicide attacks against Israel to avenge their deaths.