VIDEO - Deadly day in south Lebanon: It was definitely a planned ambush, with dozens of Hizbullah operatives waiting in the wee hours of Wednesday morning for Israel Defense Forces soldiers to enter the village of Bint Jbeil.
The hours of bitter fighting that took place in "Hizbullah's capital" resulted in eight killed soldiers. Three troops were seriously injured, four were moderately hurt and 15 sustained light wounds. Among the injured were two officers.
In another incident, which took place 13 hours later, an IDF officer was killed and three soldiers were injured. Two of the soldiers sustained serious wounds. The troops were hurt after Hizbullah terrorists fired a missile at them during an operation in the area between Maroun al-Ras and Bint Jbeil in southern Lebanon.
On Tuesday it seemed completely different. The IDF hailed the operation of taking control of the Shiite town, which was defined as "Hizbullah's capital" in southern Lebanon, as a success.
Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch, commander of the IDF's Galilee division, said: "We have achieved full control over Bint Jbeil and, as such, many residents of northern Israel will now be protected from low-trajectory fire, and soon, from high-trajectory fire as well. We are working toward this end. Terrorists who fight us will be hurt."
However, several terrorists apparently remained in the field, and the price was deadly.
First battle: Ambush of dozens of Hizbullah terrorists
The battles took place primarily in a strip of 15 houses. Forces from the Golani infantry brigade moved among the houses, with backup forces covering them from various points within the structures.
At 5 a.m., Hizbullah operatives attacked IDF soldiers. They originally used light arms, later adding short-range rockets and mortars. A number of soldiers were injured in the initial attack, but the fight was far from over. Hizbullah forces fired on soldiers from a number of different vantage points, forcing soldiers to sustain fire from several directions.
IDF sources estimate that the IDF's point force was fired upon for about an hour. Fire continued even as backup forces came in to evacuate the casualties. Commander of the Golani battalion, Colonel Tamir Yedai, coordinated the rescue operation from the command operations room, which is located in one of the nearby communities.
In practice, the rescue was difficult and complicated. Forces from a different Golani battalion carried the wounded a distance of two kilometers from the fighting, to a spot determined safe for helicopter landing. At this point, Israel Air Force helicopters transferred the injured soldiers to Israeli hospitals. Four helicopters landed consecutively, standing on the ground as briefly as possible (50-60 seconds), loading the injured soldiers and immediately taking off.
IDF sources approximate that there were a hundred Hizbullah members in the area on Tuesday who, during the night, were possibly joined by additional forces. A senior officer in the Northern Command revealed that, on Tuesday, forces avoided a similar attack when trying to rescue a tank struck in Lebanese territory.
Cars containing Hizbullah members pulled up near the tank, in an effort to inflict further damage to IDF forces, but thanks to the alertness of the commander of an engineer battalion, who opened massive fire in their direction, the terrorists were killed.
An IDF source explained that, considering that there are still a few hundred Lebanese citizens in Bint Jbeil, forces cannot attack the town aerially, and, thus, it is necessary to bring in ground troops. He emphasized that fighting in the area will continue.
Pursuant to the difficult battle, the IDF may postpone additional operations in southern Lebanon that were planned for the upcoming days. Nonetheless, senior officials stress that, despite the ambush, the terror organization has taken a hard hit. The military estimates that, in the past day alone, close to 50 Hizbullah operatives were killed in Bint Jbeil.
Second battle: Directly hit by a missile
An IDF officer was killed and three soldiers were injured, two of them sustaining serious wounds, after Hizbullah terrorists fired a missile in an operation in the area between Maroun al-Ras and Bint Jbeil in southern Lebanon.
The injured were evacuated to the Ziv Medical Center in Safed and the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. Two of them were evacuated by helicopters from the area of the incident.
Northern Command Chief Maj. Gen. Udi Adam complimented the soldiers: "Some of the wounded were evacuated in a brave operation with rescue helicopters. The soldiers manifested self-control, courage and professionalism. They succeeded in striking the terrorists."
"The evacuation was undertaken under difficult conditions, which also endangered the lives of the pilots, under fire from light arms and mortars, and with arduous field conditions. This is not an exercise and not a regular breach of security – this is a war. In a war, your first priority is to finish fighting and you evacuate the wounded in parallel," he said.