Harsh results on 13th day of fighting in Lebanon: An Israel Defense Forces officer with the rank of first lieutenant and First Sergeant Kobi Smilag of Rehovot were killed Monday in heavy exchanges of fire between ground forces and Hizbullah members in the area between Maroun al-Ras and Bint Jbeil.
Another 18 fighters were injured, two sustaining serious wounds, five sustaining moderate wounds and seven lightly injured. Among the injured, the commander of the armor's Battalion 52, Lieutenant-Colonel Guy, who was moderately wounded, and the battalion's deputy assistant chief of staff, who was seriously wounded.
The incident began after armor forces were called to rescue an Egoz unit fighter who was seriously injured by Hizbullah fire and another five Orev Company fighters who were lightly to moderately hurt by an aircraft that accidentally fired at them. During the rescue attempts, one of the tanks was hit by an anti-tank missile and the other tank went over a powerful landmine.
In another incident Monday, two pilots were killed after the aircraft began taking to the ground for an unknown reason, hit a power line, crashed and caught fire within seconds. The IDF is looking into the possibility that the helicopter was hit by artillery fire of the "Destroyer" multiple launch rocket system or suffered a technical malfunction.
The harsh battle occurred near Bint Jbeil, which is considered "Hizbullah's capital" in southern Lebanon. An officer in the armor's Battalion 52 was killed during the battles after an anti-tank missile hit a Merkava tank. The tank entered the area in order to rescue fighters who were heard in the fighting against Hizbullah.
Almost simultaneously, another of the battalion's tanks went over a powerful landmine, killing a soldier. The battalion's commander was moderately injured and another officer was seriously injured in the tank.
IDF soldiers are operating in the town of Bint Jbeil and in several other villages in southern Lebanon in a bid to damage Hizbullah's infrastructure and redefine the security reality along the border. In this operation, in which rocket stocks and weapon caches are being damaged, IDF soldiers hit a large number of terrorists. The operation is taking place in a complex area, most of which was evacuated by residents called to leave.
Last week, several soldiers were injured in a similar rescue operation, when a tank entered an area in Maroun al-Ras in order to rescue soldiers from the Maglan unit, who were injured after encountering terrorists. Three soldiers were injured in the same incident, one of them sustaining serious wounds.
Two Golani infantry divisions and paratroopers took part in the fighting around the village and besieged it. Tanks of the armor's Division 7 also operated in the area.
IDF Operations Branch Head Major General Gadi Eisenkot said during a press briefing Monday: “The operation we saw in Bint Jbeil will be seen in other places as well. In the operations, we take control of an area for a limited amount of time, then leave it.”
In the course of the fighting, a number of injured troops were evacuated by helicopter to Ziv Medical Center in Safed and the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. Airborne medical teams landed adjacent to the northern border and met the injured soldiers with a military ambulance.
Four soldiers injured when Hizbullah fired an anti-tank missile at their armored vehicle were treated in Haifa. The Ziv Medical Center received 13 injured soldiers.
A military helicopter transported three soldiers from Ziv to the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, where they received special treatment for back injuries. A hospital doctor said the soldiers sustained shrapnel wounds and bone fractures.
Soldiers cry for their fallen friends (Photo: AP)
The group said it hit a number of Israeli tanks and killed a dozen soldiers.
A Hizbullah member of parliament, Houssein Haj Hassan, said the group is firing anti-tank missiles to hit Israeli armored vehicles. Estimates are that Syria and Iran supplied Hizbullah with sophisticated anti-tank missiles.
About the motivation of group members he said: "They are yearning to become Shahids."
Roee Nahmias contributed to the report