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Lebanon Invaded by Israel Following Capture of 2 SoldiersSalem-News.com
Hezbollah is now holding three captured Israeli soldiers, raising tension and also raising the stakes in a game both countries have played before.
(JERUSALEM) - Following the capture Tuesday of two more Israeli soldiers, Israel launched a major military offensive, sending armored forces into southern Lebanon in response to a border raid by the militant group Hezbollah that killed at least seven soldiers in addition to those who were abducted.
Israel's army is still expanding its two-week-old operations in the Gaza Strip, seeking the return of a soldier captured by Palestinian militants inside Israel on June 25th. The new attack equates to Israel now having a second front against Lebanon.
The New York Times reports that more tthan 20 Palestinians were killed in Gaza Tuesday, most in airstrikes and many of them civilians, according to Palestinian medical officials.
Hezbollah’s assault on Israeli soldiers inside Israeli territory bore similarities to the raid by the Palestinians last month, and suddenly, the crisis on Israel’s southern flank is essentially being replicated on its northern border, raising tensions even further.
Israel has overwhelming military superiority in both southern Lebanon and Gaza, but Hezbollah and the militant Palestinian faction Hamas each have leverage with the captured Israeli soldiers. Sources say the dual confrontations could carry on the fighting indefinitely.
As they did in the Gaza crisis, Israeli officials ruled out negotiations with the Lebanese captors of the Israeli soldiers. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is holding the Lebanese government responsible for the actions of Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim group that participates in Lebanese politics while battling Israel.
“I want to make clear that the event this morning is not a terror act, but an act of a sovereign state that attacked Israel without reason,” Mr. Olmert said. “The government of Lebanon, of which Hezbollah is a part, is trying to shake the stability of the region.”
Israel wants all three of its soldiers be returned unconditionally and the militant groups to stop firing rockets civilians in Israel from Gaza in the south and Lebanon in the north.
Hamas and Hezbollah are holding out and the only solution they offer is an exchange for a large number of Palestinian and other Arab prisoners held by Israel.
“The capture of the two soldiers could provide a solution to the Gaza crisis,” Sheik Nasrallah said in Beirut. The operation had been planned for months, he said, though he added, “the timing, no doubt, provides support for our brothers in Palestine.”
Hezbollah stated, “the two captives were transferred to a safe place,” though did not give any other details on their condition.
Hezbollah managed to win freedom for more than 400 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners two years ago, exchanging them for an Israeli businessman the Lebanese held as well as the remains of three Israeli soldiers who were killed in a Hezbollah near the border in 2000.
Nearly 9,000 Palestinian prisoners are held in Israel. The number of Lebanese prisoners though, is believed to be small. Many were freed in the swap two years ago, which was mediated by Germany.
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