VIDEO - Two IDF soldiers were killed Wednesday and nine injured – two of them moderately and the remainder lightly – while encountering a cell of terrorists on the northern border. The incident took place near the community of Avivim, north of Safed, a few hundred meters inside Lebanese territory.
The soldiers killed during the gunbattles are Staff Sergeant Yonatan Hadassi, 21, from kibbutz Merhavia and Staff Sergeant Yotam Gilboa, 21, from kibbutz Maoz Haim. Their families were informed.
The force was operating in the area in order to strike a Hizbullah bunker in which arms and rockets were being stored. The soldiers waited in the area since the morning hours, before encountering the terror cell in an area in which an IDF post once existed, which looked out over the area.
Heavy exchanges of fire broke out which lasted for an hour, and included the firing of light weapons and grenades.
During the fighting two soldiers were killed, and another soldier was seriously injured. A soldier was also lightly injured. A number of rockets were fired at the area at the same time.
The target has been marked by the IDF for a while now. It is not yet clear how many terrorists took part in the battle, but it seems the terrorists set up an ambush in the area, and were camouflaged so that they could not be identified.
Soldiers evacuated to hospital (Photo: Doron Golan)
Following the firefight a tank and combat helicopters were mobilized to the scene. The terrorists attempted to fire a mortar shell at the tank, which apparently also drove over an explosives device planted in the area. Two tanks operated for the first time in the northern region and traveled towards the battle zone.
Heavy fire was opened on the two tanks including mortars, and three soldiers were injured by shrapnel, one of them seriously. The rescue of the injured was carried out under fire. At least one terrorist was killed and another terrorist apparently succeeded in escaping deep into southern Lebanese territory.
In a separate incident on Wednesday an IDF soldier was seriously injured, two were moderately injured, and a soldier was lightly injured, as a result of the rocket attack in the upper Galilee. The solders were evacuated to hospitals.
Israel Defense Forces troops clashed Wednesday afternoon with Hizbullah terrorists across the border with Lebanon near the Avivim community.
Helicopter gunships, tanks and ambulances have been called to the area, the army said. A terrorist was killed and another fled the scene after fierce clashes.
Smoke was seen billowing over the community of Avivim, which lies north of Safed.
Hizbullah confirmed that its affiliates clashed with IDF troops near a-Trun in South Lebanon.
The group's mouthpiece al-Manar gave no further details.
An IDF officer told Ynet earlier that troops are operating inside Lebanese territory to carry out pinpoint operations.
The IDF also plans to destroy about 20 Hizbullah posts along the border with Israel. Troops are currently operating about a kilometer inside Lebanese territory to destroy Hizbullah posts and tunnels built across the border from Shlomi, and Rosh Hanikra.
A post set up by Hizbullah in the Ghajar village, half of which lies in Israel, was captured by the army on Tuesday.
Officers said that the army aims at weakening Hizbullah by dealing a blow to his military capability.
"Hizbullah is amazed by the amount of information Israel has, which has led to great destruction of his capabilities," an officer said.
Aviram Zino contributed to this report