VIDEO - The Israel Defense Forces prepared Sunday morning to boost ground operations in south Lebanon villages, with the aim of “cleaning out” Hizbullah strongholds. The IDF has already taken control of the village Maroun a-Ras north of Avivim in the eastern sector, as well as a few other Lebanese villages known to harbor Hizbullah infrastructure.
Currently, the IDF is moving in with fire and surveillance on Bint Jabel, which is considered to be the “Hizbullah capital”.
The IDF called on residents of 13 villages in the south to evacuate their homes ahead of the army's ground incursion. Brig.-Gen. Benny Ganz, commander of IDF ground forces, noted that any region harboring weapons would be destroyed.
The IDF was preparing to carry on operations, after an intense day of violence Saturday during which northern Israel was hit by at least 150 rockets. Dozens of Israeli civilians were wounded, including two seriously, in Safed and in Carmiel.
The Israel Air Force on Saturday night struck the al-Manar television station in Beirut. In addition, the army attacked Hizbullah headquarters and buildings in Beirut and a facility suspected to be a Katyusha launcher.
Beirut residents reported Saturday night that the Air Force bombed targets in the Dahiya neighborhood, which is considered Hizbullah's stronghold in the city. Simultaneously, the IDF struck a Hizbullah building in the city of Tyre. Official sources in Lebanon reported that four people were injured in the attack.
Convoy headed to Lebanon (Photo: AP)
On Saturday, the Air Force struck over 90 terror targets in Lebanese territory. Since the beginning of operations in Lebanon, roughly 2,000 terror targets across Lebanon were hit and over 4,000 sorties were carried out, according to the army. Among the targets hit Saturday: Hizbullah buildings, tunnels, communication systems and Katyusha launch sites.
Herev battalion enters villages
On Saturday, the Herev battalion operated in Marwahin, about two kilometers into southeast Lebanon, and discovered a great deal of Hizbullah weapons there. While forces were operating, shells were fired at them from a neighboring village. The Air Force was prepared to back up troops operating on the ground. After difficult battles the army also took control of Maroun a-Ras.
Most residents of the village had cooperated with the IDF’s pleas to evacuate to the north, across the Litani River, clearing the way for the army to operate without fear of harming civilians.
“We searched through the village carefully, we went house to house, and we found three sites where Hizbullah operatives had been hiding out. We could tell by the flak jackets, helmets, and even the cups of coffee still sitting on the table – but the Hizbullah men apparently fled when we entered. We also found a lot of ammunitions, including weapons, Lau rocket launchers in the yard of a mosque, binoculars, and various rockets,” said battalion commander Lt. Col. Wajadee.
“The operation was extremely tense,” Wajadee said. “We were there for three nights and expected terrorists might attack us at any moment.”
Wajadee said the terrorists used sites in the village to survey and collect information on Israeli communities across the border. An 80-year-old Lebanese man, who remained nearly alone in the town, told soldiers that residents did not cooperate with Hizbullah, but Hizbullah forced themselves on the village and used the residents in operations against Israel.
This is just an example of what will take place in the next few days. More battalions will repeat the activities of the Herev battalion in other Lebanese villages throughout the south. Elite units will be dispatched to villages considered most problematic, such and Bint Jabel, while other forces will enter villages anticipated to be quieter.
Roee Nahmias contributed to the report