IDF: We'll control security zone by Thursday
Some 200 soldiers of elite units raid Baalbek area Tuesday night. Senior officer says in press briefing that 15 similar operations have been carried out inside Lebanon so far. Hospital raided by forces serves as Hizbullah's 'outpatient clinic,' place for meeting with members of Iranian Revolutionary Guards
The officer was asked whether the operation at the hospital was aimed at locating intelligence information on the kidnapped soldiers, who may have been treated there before being moved elsewhere, but he refused to answer the question.
According to the officer, the Israel Defense Forces has so far carried out 15 similar operations, also 120-130 kilometers (74.5-80.7 miles) away from the border. Referring to the continuation of the war, he said that "the operational goal will be reached tomorrow morning – an operational control of the traditional security zone in the central region."
The officer said the operation in Baalbek was planned last week to meet two objectives:
1. To deal a blow to the Dar el-Hikma hospital, which was used to cover up Hizbullah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards activities.
2. The second aim was in the Sheikh Habib neighborhood where weapons were seized and five Hizbullah terrorists were nabbed from a building situated about five kilometers from the hospital.
The hospital served as an outpatient clinic for Hizbullah.
"The minute the soldiers arrived they came under fire. There were very few people. Soldiers found disks, computers and encountered armed men. A number of cars arrived at the scene but the forces neutralized them," the officer said.
A search of the building led soldiers to weapons.
"The operations have a multi-operational value. They give us a good intelligence picture. Tonight five Hizbullah members whose ages range from 20 to 54 were kidnapped and their names are known to us," the officer said.
The officer added that the operation was not carried out to nab specific Hizbullah members.
The Baalbek operation began after midnight. Foreign sources reported that IDF soldiers were flown into Baalbeck in a bid to kidnap Sheikh Muhammad Yazbek, a member of Hizbullah's High Council and one of the group's top 12 senior members. According to the report, IDF soldiers engaged in fierce battles with Hizbullah gunmen.
Security sources in Lebanon reported that 19 people were killed in IAF strikes in Baalbek, including civilians, children and a Syrian citizen. Hizbullah reported that the Lebanese kidnapped in the operation were innocent citizens and not activists.
Referring to the reports, the officer said that the operation was not aimed at targeting one specific person. He added that other secret operations were taking place in Lebanon but refused to give details. He said the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are smuggling weapons to Hizbullah and in some cases they operate some of these weapons on behalf of the Shiite group.
The officer said despite a decrease in attempts to smuggle arms from Syria to Hizbullah, activities along the Syrian-Lebanese border are being monitored closely.