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In a meticulously-planned attack by the Hizbullah, terrorists infiltrated into Israel early Wednesday morning and fired anti-tank rockets at an IDF patrol along the western border near Zarit, killing three soldiers and abducting another two. Later a tank, sent in to search for the abducted troops, drove over a large explosive device.
Four soldiers were killed. Under heavy fire, IDF troops entered Lebanon to retrieve the bodies of the four soldiers who died in the tank attack. An eighth soldier, part of the search-and-rescue team, was killed in ensuing clashes with the Hizbullah.
The names of two of the eight soldiers killed were released for publication Wednesday evening: Sgt.-Major Eyal Benin, 22, of Beersheba and Sgt.-Major Shani Turgeman, 24, of Beit Shean. One of the kidnapped soldiers was a reservist from the Druze village of Kfar Yanuh. The other kidnapped soldier was from Kiryat Motzkin, near Haifa. The three soldiers killed in the attack on the patrol were also reservists.
Wednesday morning's attacks, which occurred 17 days after Cpl. Gilad Shalit was abducted in Gaza, opened a second front on Israel's northern border, including barrages of Katyusha rockets and mortar shells.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared the attack as an "act of war." During a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi Wednesday afternoon, he called the Hizbullah attack an unprovoked assault by a sovereign nation and held Lebanon, where Hizbullah has a minister in the government, fully responsible.
"Israel's response will be restrained but very, very, very painful," Olmert added.
The ground troops that were sent into Lebanon to search for the two were aided by IAF jets, helicopters and UAVs, which were also flying above Lebanon searching for the soldiers. Several jets were flying patterns above Beirut.
Simultaneously, Navy missile ships and artillery cannons along the border were pounded Hizbullah targets in Lebanon The IDF said it destroyed 30 Hizbullah targets in Lebanon, as well as three bridges, since the beginning of the operation.
The morning attack began at 8 AM, when Hizbullah launched a heavy barrage of Katyusha rockets and mortar shells at IDF positions and communities along the northern frontier. One rocket scored a direct hit on a house in Shtula. Magen David Adom said they had treated six people. Both soldiers and civilians were wounded; they were evacuated to Nahariya hospital.
The ground troops that were sent into Lebanon to search for the two were aided by IAF jets, helicopters and UAVs, which were also flying above Lebanon searching for the soldiers. Several jets were flying patterns above Beirut, Channel 10 reported. Simultaneously, Navy gunboats and artillery along the border were shelling Hizbullah targets in Lebanon.
The army has destroyed 30 targets and Hizbullah outposts in Lebanon, as well as three bridges, since the beginning of the operation.
While Hizbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah announced at Wednesday afternoon press conference that the two kidnapped soldiers were "in a safe and very distant place," a senior Hizbullah official claimed that at least one of the two was still alive.