The IDF once again demonstrated its long-arm Friday night when Naval Commandos raided a building in Tyre, more than 20 kilometers from the border, in search of the terrorists who had fired long-range missiles at Hadera hours earlier.
Nine Hizbullah gunmen were killed. Two commandos, including one officer, were seriously wounded while storming the building, and six sustained light wounds during clashes with the Hizbullah gunmen.
The commandos killed Hizbullah leaders in charge of the cell that fired the rockets at Hadera, Hizbullah's deepest penetration inside Israel since fighting began on July 12, according to Chief of Naval Operations Rear-Admiral Noam Feig.
The decision to use the commandos rather than an air strike was made, Feig said, because of concern that civilians might be killed if the rocket cell was targeted from the air. He also said the ground operation, which was planned based on detailed intelligence, sent a strong message to the gunmen, demonstrating that the IDF could operate deep inside Lebanon.
"Hizbullah's way of operating from the midst of residential areas endangers innocent civilians and forces us to use selective and pinpointed means," Feig said.
Senior officers described the operation as successful and said Hizbullah's ability to fire long-range rockets at the North had been impaired.
The commandos entered Tyre by sea and surrounded an apartment building in a crowded residential area in the northern part of the city, Feig said Saturday night. The force stormed the four-story building, killing four Hizbullah gunmen.
When the commandos left the structure, they killed five Hizbullah gunmen in a firefight. IAF aircraft and drones provided air cover and intelligence for the operation. The commandos, Feig said, spent one hour and 45 minutes in Tyre.
One officer said that the operation was meant to demonstrate to Hizbullah that the IDF could reach any of its leaders "wherever he might be."
"The very fact that operations such as this take place deep in enemy territory and strike at the operational levels is of strategic significance," Feig said. "Throughout the combat the fighters displayed exceptional operational capability and coolness under fire."
Lebanese witnesses said that they found pools of blood in an orchard on the Israelis' withdrawal route. A corner apartment in the target building was left charred, with furniture melted by the assault's initial explosion. The structure's stairs and the pavement outside were stained with blood and littered with bullets from the fighting.