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French Version

Israel kills 3 Hizbollah fighters in Lebanon raid

Israeli aircraft and commandos raided a Hizbollah bastion in eastern Lebanon and killed three guerillas on Saturday in the first big attack since a truce halted Israel's 34-day war with the Shi'ite Muslim group.

Lebanese security sources said commandos in two vehicles unloaded from helicopters were on their way to attack an office of senior Hizbollah official Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek in the village of Bodai when they were spotted and intercepted.

Three Hizbollah fighters were killed and the Israeli force suffered six casualties before pulling out under the cover of fierce air strikes, the sources said.

Israeli army said the raid was aimed at disrupting the shipment of weapons to Hizbollah guerillas from Syria and Iran -- both of which deny arming the group.

"Special forces carried out an operation to disrupt terror actions against Israel with an emphasis on the transfer of munitions from Syria and Iran to Hizbollah," the army said, adding that the operation had achieved all its aims.

Bodai is 15 km (nine miles) northwest of the ancient city of Baalbek and 26 km (16 miles) from the Syrian border.

The Israeli raid coincided with a Lebanese army drive to tighten its grip on the border with Syria. Thousands of troops deployed on the eastern border on Saturday, security sources said. Hundreds deployed on the northern frontier on Friday.

A U.N.-ordered "cessation of hostilities" on Monday halted the war between Israeli forces and Hizbollah guerillas in which at least 1,183 people in Lebanon and 157 Israelis were killed.

A U.N. resolution ordered Israel to end all offensive military action and Hizbollah to end all attacks. It also called for the deployment of the Lebanese army in the south alongside a strengthened UNIFIL, the U.N. peacekeeping force in the area.

Israeli officials have vowed to stop any attempts by Hizbollah to rearm and to target leaders of the group.


Fifty French military engineers arrived at UNIFIL's main base in Naqoura on the south Lebanese coast, the first contingent of reinforcements to come since the war.

The engineers were among 200 pledged by France, which had earlier been expected to form the backbone of the expanded U.N. force to supervise the truce, support the Lebanese army and monitor the withdrawal of Israeli troops.

The United States urged France on Friday to increase its contingent and the United Nations appealed for Europeans to contribute to the force to create a balance between Western and Muslim troops acceptable to Israel and Lebanon.

U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown welcomed troop promises from Italy and Finland and firm commitments from Nepal and Muslim nations Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh.

Israeli officials have said that countries that do not have relations with the Jewish state should not be in the force. Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh have no ties with Israel.

The United Nations wants to field an advance force of 3,500 troops by September 2 and the entire complement by November 4.
The Security Council on August 11 authorized up to 13,000 troops to join the 2,000 now serving with UNIFIL.

But France's reticence to send a large troop contingent has cast doubt on whether other European nations will step forward.

The Lebanese army began deploying in the south on Thursday. Hizbollah fighters have lain low, without relinquishing their weapons, including the rockets they rained on Israel in the war.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged Israel and Lebanon to make "painful compromises" to win the release of captured Israeli soldiers and settle the issue of Lebanese prisoners.

The war began after Hizbollah snatched two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12, saying it wanted to trade them for Lebanese and Arab prisoners held in Israel.

Last week's U.N. resolution called for the unconditional release of the two Israelis and urgently encouraged efforts at settling the issue of Lebanese prisoners in Israel.

In the occupied West Bank, Israel seized Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Naser al-Shaer of the ruling Hamas militant group at his home on Saturday, his wife and two legislators said.

Israel has taken more than two dozen Hamas lawmakers and several other cabinet ministers into custody since late June, after it launched an offensive in response to the capture of a soldier in a cross-border raid from the Gaza Strip.

Beirut 19-08-2006

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