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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

3 IDF soldiers killed, 25 wounded in Ayta al-Shaab yesterday

Three IDF soldiers were killed and another 25 wounded in a battle with Hezbullah gunmen in Ayta al-Shaab yesterday. The three soldiers who were killed were St.-Sgt. Yonatan Einhorn, 22, of Moshav Gimzo; First Sgt. Michael Levine, 21, of Jerusalem; and Lieutenant Ilan Gabbai, 22, of Kiryat Tivon.

Einhorn was buried at 1:30 p.m. today in the military cemetery at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem. Gabbai's funeral will held at the military section of the Kiryat Tivon cemetery today at 5 p.m. Levine will be buried on Mt. Herzl at 4 p.m. on Thursday. Levine was an American immigrant from Philadelphia, who cut short a visit with his parents to join his platoon when the war broke out.

The Jerusalem Post describes the battle:

Dozens of Hizbullah gunmen, the IDF said, surprised a force from the brigade's Battalion 101 as it moved through the small town just over the hill from the Israeli community of Shtula, in the central sector. Once home to 5,000 Shi'ites, Aita al-Shaab was believed by the IDF to be a Hizbullah stronghold, one of many in which soldiers were operating on Tuesday as the IDF geared up for an effort to push Hizbullah north to the Litani River.

Led by Lt.-Col. Ariel Yohanon, commander of Battalion 101, the troops moved quietly through the narrow alleys in the small village with some troops taking up positions in homes vacated by their owners who fled north in anticipation of the expected incursion. Suddenly, IDF officers recalled, a wave of anti-tank missiles, RPGs and heavy gunfire hit a group of troops in one of the homes. Two soldiers were killed during the initial clashes and a third was killed in a later rocket attack.

The battle lasted for several hours and the wounded soldiers were treated at the scene under heavy gunfire, as an evacuation was deemed almost impossible.

Yohanon and his men fought fiercely, senior officers in the Northern Command said, and succeeded in killing more than 15 Hizbullah guerrillas in the village, which was simultaneously bombarded by missiles fired by attack helicopters providing cover for the ground troops and artillery shells.

The idea, a senior officer said, was to stay in the village for up to 24 hours, to kill as many Hizbullah gunmen as possible and then to move on to the next village with the ultimate goal of pushing the Hizbullah as far north as deemed necessary even beyond the Litani. A total of five brigades were operating in the region, and heavy gunfights involving light machine guns and rockets were reported.


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