Powered by WebAds

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Israel captures three Hezbullah terrorists in Ba'albek hospital but apparently misses big fish

Note: This post is pieced together from accounts in JPost and HaAretz. Both articles are vague on certain points - probably to protect IDF operational methods. I am trying to blend the two articles into one coherent story but I may be off on some points.

The IDF sent a commando team into a hospital in Ba'albek during the night. The commandos captured a number of Hezbullah operatives (HaAretz describes them as low level operatives and gives three names but says that there were six of them; JPost calls them 'officials'). Then the IDF pulled out. Hezbullah told CNN that the soldiers were trapped inside the hospital. If they were, they managed to escape.

An IAF helicopter dropped the special forces soldiers at the hospital late Tuesday night. They engaged in heavy shooting with Hezbullah operatives on the premises.

After inspecting the identification of everyone in the hospital, the IDF soldiers arrested several people described in a CNN report as 'Hezbullah officials,' who were later transported back into Israel. The officials names and positions in the organization were not revealed.

No IDF soldiers were wounded in the operation, an army spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post.

HaAretz reports that according to Israel Radio, Lebanese police said that the IDF captured six junior Hezbullah militants and killed several others before completing the operation and safely returning to Israel.

HaAretz quotes Lebanese security sources who identified three of the men as Hussein Nasrallah, Hussein al-Burji and Ahmed al-Ghotah, and described them as 'low ranking members' of the group. The captured Hussein Nasrallah is apparently not related to Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbullah leader.

Earlier Wednesday morning, Hezbullah spokesman Hussein Rahal said, "A group of Israeli commandos was brought to the hospital by a helicopter. They entered the hospital and are trapped inside as our fighters opened fire on them and fierce fighting is still raging."

In a statement released Wednesday, the IDF confirmed that Hezbullah operatives had been captured and that others had been killed. They also confirmed that all of the Israeli troops returned safely to base. This is the first confirmation by the IDF of operations so deep inside the Bekaa Valley, a known Hezbullah stronghold.

HaAretz reports from Lebanese sources that the raid aimed to capture senior Hezbullah man Mohammed Yazbek, who was reportedly being treated at the Dar al-Hikma hospital in the town.

This is from HaAretz's account of the rest of the battle:

The operation began with at least five rapid air strikes on Baalbek and its surroundings at 10:20 P.M. - three hours before the end of Israel's self-imposed two-day pause in air attacks. Helicopters fired rockets and heavy machinegun fire at targets near a hospital in Baalbek and other sites in the city, witnesses said.

Witnesses in Baalbek said they saw dozens of IAF helicopters hovering over the city. They said the hospital in Baalbek, filled with patients and wounded people, was bombed by IAF helicopters late Tuesday. Plumes of burning smoke billowed from the hospital after it was directly hit, they said.

Flares held aloft by parachutes lighted the night sky to a daytime brilliance, a Lebanese security official said.

Four hours into the operation the fighting continued, witnesses said. IAF warplanes staged more than 10 bombing runs at 2.20 A.M. (2320 GMT) Wednesday around the hospital as well as on hills in east and north Baalbek.

Shortly after the IAF raids began, electricity was cut off, plunging Baalbek and other neighboring villages in total darkness.

IAF helicopters also attacked a target 15 kilometers west of Baalbek, starting a huge fire, witnesses said. It was not immediately known if the target was controlled by Hezbollah or the Lebanese army.


Speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, the residents said the Dar al-Hikma hospital is financed by an Iranian charity, the Imam Khomeini Charitable Society, which is close to Hezbollah. The hospital is also run by people close to Hezbollah, the residents said. Repeated telephone calls to the Dar al-Hikma hospital went unanswered.

Baalbek is about 100 kilometers north of the Litani River, which Israel had set as a northern boundary for an expanded ground operation that was announced in the early hours of Tuesday.

An ancient city with spectacular Roman ruins, Baalbek was a former Syrian army headquarters and included the barracks of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards when they trained Hezbollah guerrillas there in the 1980s.

The last time IDF forces were know to have penetrated so far into Lebanon was in 1994, when they abducted Lebanese guerrilla leader Mustafa Dirani, hoping to use him to get information about missing Israeli airman Ron Arad. Dirani was released in a prisoner exchange 10 years later [The exchange was for the bodies of the three Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbullah with UN assistance in 2000 and for businessman drug-dealing philanderer Elhanan Tannenbaum. CiJ].


Post a Comment

<< Home