It was one of the most impressive battles in the war against Hizbullah. Dozens of terrorists were killed, many weapons – including a 24-head rocket launcher - were destroyed, and not a single IDF soldier was hurt.
The 'Spearhead' paratroopers reserves brigade, whose glorious past includes operations such as the liberation of eastern Jerusalem, crossing the Suez canal, the first Lebanon war and Operation 'Defensive Shield', succeeded, a moment before the ceasefire, to surprise and strike at Hizbullah.
Troops after another Lebanon battle (Photo: AFP)
Brigade commander Col. Etai Virov told Ynet about the battle, which began Friday and ended Monday morning when the ceasefire took effect. "Most of the enemy didn't know what hit them, they tried to discover the location of their shooters facing Israel, but we were attacking from the north," he said.
Invading the enemy's tactical homefront
"The brigade executed an action that they'd been training for a long time: the ability to pass over the 'combat strip' and move a large number of forces into the enemy's tactical homefront, who would work their way from the north to the south," he explained. "In practice, we executed a deceptive maneuver in order to lure the terrorists to a natural preserve and, simultaneously, we airlifted a battalion into the enemy homefront."
Hundreds of additional soldiers, including Virov himself, walked for 12 hours, circumventing Beit Lif, in order to join the airlifted forces, resulting in almost a thousand soldiers positioned north of the enemy force.
"We found ourselves in the Hizbullah homefront, in launching areas…We fought for more than three days. We fought through thickets, destroyed launchers and trucks carrying arms, fired at gunmen and killed dozens of terrorists," Virov recounts.
"At a certain point, we say a 24-head rocket launcher 500 meters from us…driving as if they thought no one could see them. We destroyed the launcher, along with the rocket. The two terrorists inside were killed," he continued.
The brigade commander explained the logistical difficulty of the operation: "There was no access route and the soldiers were hauling 35-40 kg of equipment, each. Provisions were air dropped and we would send groups of soldiers, with bags, into enemy territory to get water and a little food. The enemy knew that we were there, but didn't realize the extent of the force or weaponry that we had."
Regarding his soldiers, Virov has nothing but praise. "No soldiers in the IDF could be more steadfast…Their motivation was sky high. They're in excellent physical condition. No one complained or broke down."
Wednesday night, the soldiers began the final march home, which ended at nine a.m. on Thursday. "We have a great sense of fulfillment," summed up Virov. "We successfully executed our mission and returned with no casualties."