Ambush in the Upper Galilee

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The forest-covered mountains of northern Galilee were burning today, after missile strikes from Hizballah hit several villages and kibbutzim along the border in what Israeli Northern Command officers said was a well-coordinated attack. Multiple Katyusha rocket attacks, as well as several cross-border incursions by Hizballah fighters, left at least seven Israeli soldiers killed, a tank destroyed, two soldiers injured and two infantrymen held captive by Hizballah.

Israel responded with the largest ground invasion into south Lebanon since its 2000 pullout. Dozens of targets in south Lebanon were hit, according to Col. Boaz Cohen, chief of operations for Israel's Northern Command. Targets included Hizballah positions, three to five bridges, "and more." Cohen declined to say what was included in the latter category.

The ambush in Israel occurred shortly after 8 a.m. this morning, said the colonel, who described the events of the attack. Near the northern town of Zar'it, about two miles from the border, two Israeli humvees were on patrol when Hizballah fighters attacked with either rocket-propelled grenades or anti-tank weapons—possibly a roadside bomb—and set the vehicles on fire. Three soldiers were killed, two were injured and the remaining two soldiers were captured.

"[Hizballah] has been planning this a long time," Cohen said. In addition to the attack near Zar'it, there were several other attacks, but Cohen declined to say where.

Cohen said the Lebanese government has asked for a cease-fire through UNIFIL, the United Nations peacekeeping force stationed in southern Lebanon since the first Israeli withdrawal in 1978. "There will be none until we see our soldiers," Cohen said. He added that Beirut was included in the possible targets in addition to others around Lebanon, but declined to say whether the capital would be attacked. "You'll find out in a few days."

A few miles away, in the escarpment village of Shomela, Gabriel Peretz, the owner—with his wife, Ada—of a bed and breakfast bemoaned the latest violence. "The situation is very bad," he said from his garden. Israeli artillery fire and its crack-boom followed by a lingering zing of the outgoing shell punctuated his sentences. "We've had six years of peace, but everything has come back to us. All the fear and the bad economics." As Peretz spoke, loudspeakers in the village called for residents to get into hardened shelters immediately. He and Ada ignored them.

Gabriel himself was stationed in southern Lebanon during the Lebanese civil war when Israel invaded for the first time. He doesn't believe Israel should negotiate with Hizballah. "I don't agree with him," Ada said fiercely. She has cause to worry. They have three sons, aged 18, 20 and 25. The youngest is about to serve in the army and the oldest will soon be summoned by the widespread reserve call-up.