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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The battle of Bint Jbeil

The three English-language newspaper web sites are reporting some thirty IDF soldiers wounded in a fierece battle in Bint Jbeil, regarded as the "terror capital" of Southern Lebanon today. The IDF is not giving numbers of soldiers killed, but the foreign media has been reporting a number that might make sense given that Arutz Sheva is reporting some 20 soldiers evacuated to hospitals in Israel (two of whom are listed in serious condition and four of whom are in moderate condition) and all of the media are reporting approximately thirty casualties. However, I just saw a larger number of killed from Al-AP, which sounds high. The IDF does not confirm numbers killed to the Israeli media until the families of the dead - God forbid - have been informed.

What is clear is that Hezbullah guerillas ambushed Israeli troops in Bint Jbeil around 5:00 AM today, a day after IDF forces sealed off entry into the town. 5:00 AM would have been the crack of dawn here - the sun rose around 5:50 in Jerusalem today. You may recall that I reported last night that Hezbullah terrorists were shooting from inside mosques, schools and hospitals. This is apparently what happened today, although Hezbullah is trying to minimize its significance. Here is the JPost's description (link above) of a statement that 'senior Hezbullah official' Mahmoud Komati made to the Associated Press:

A senior Hizbullah official, Mahmoud Komati, told The Associated Press Wednesday that Israeli forces had managed to seize a few points inside Bint Jbail, but had not yet taken the town center.

The Israeli army said several Hizbullah fighters had taken cover in a local mosque.

But Komati denied fighters were taking cover in a mosque and suggested they may be civilians. "Fighters don't take shelter in mosques. They fight on the battlefield. If they can't, they retreat but not to mosques."
Yet when asked the same question, a Hezbullah spokesman named Rahhal stated:

Rahhal, the Hizbullah spokesman, angrily responded to a question about the mosque refuge. "What's the Israeli's business that our fighters were in the mosque? Maybe they were praying at the time!"
That sure sounds to me like they were taking refuge in the mosque.

HaAretz reports (link above) that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee today that he was "not surprised" by the intensity of the fighting in Bint Jbeil. The newspapers are all reporting that it is "house to house" combat.

The casualties are apparently mostly or all from the Golani Brigade, which has been fighting Hezbullah in Bint Jbeil.

YNet (link above) describes the use of civilian installations for weapons storage (descriptions based upon yesterday's fighting) in Bint Jbeil:
On Tuesday, many weapons in some of the homes were found, and rooms have been turned into war rooms for Hizbullah members.

On Tuesday morning, during early searches, fire was opened on forces, who returned fire. A number of terrorists fled into a mosque in the area and continued to fire from within the structure at soldiers.

Last week, a missile launcher was found in the mosque, IDF sources said.

"Hizbullah members don't discount any means to kill or injure, including the use of civilians as a holy human shields. If there will be no choice, we will hit every place from which they shoot at our forces," a military source told Ynet.
Arutz Sheva reports 'dozens' of bodies of Hezbullah guerillas strewn around the area. They also report difficulty in evacuating the wounded due to heavy fighting:
Ten Israeli casualties were originally reported, with the number gradually increasing over the course of the day. The battle raged on until around 2 PM. Rescue forces were unable for several hours to begin evacuating the wounded because of the heavy Hizbullah fire, but finally completed the mission in the early afternoon - at which point the number of reported casualties began to rise. Some 20 wounded soldiers have been taken to Rambam Hospital in Haifa, including two in serious condition and four listed in "moderate" condition.

The terrorists, who suffered heavy losses, fired RPG (rocket propelled grenade) missiles from within built-up urban areas.

The IDF had left a narrow corridor open for the terrorists to escape, hoping to engage them further to the north. Some 15 carloads of terrorists did in fact leave, but many remained to fight. The IDF continues to hold a numerical and qualitative advantage.

Givati and Golani Brigade forces are participating in the fighting, as well as Egoz unit soldiers [The Givati and Golani are among our best combat units. Egoz is an elite unit. CiJ]. Replacements have been brought in to spell the soldiers who have been fighting for several days with little rest.
The IDF briefing tonight should hopefully clarify matters.


At 6:10 PM, Blogger Elder of Ziyon said...

FoxNEWS has been reporting at least 9 Israeli soldiers killed for a few hours already. I didn't see any corroboration until you mentioned the AP report.

At 6:20 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

AP is reporting a higher number. Some of the thirty or so 'wounded' who have been reported are likely dead, but the IDF will not clear that information for publication in Israel until the families have been notified. I am not giving numbers (and this time I don't have them - on other occasions I have had them and held them) until the IDF makes an official statement. I'm in Israel and aside from any other considerations, I don't want the IDF censor after me.


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