Under the cover of darkness, troops from the Golani Brigade's elite Egoz unit converged on the village of Bint Jbail early Monday morning. The soldiers took up positions on the outskirts of the town, once home to 20,000 Shi'ite Lebanese and a stronghold for some 200 Hizbullah guerrillas.
Described by one senior officer as "swarms of locusts," the troops split up into several smaller teams and converged on the village in tight packs. But the fighting was fierce. Senior officers who participated in the battle recalled Tuesday how the soldiers, moving from one house to the next, held gunfights with the enemy at point-blank range within homes and backyards.
Two soldiers have so far lost their lives in what is now being called by the IDF the "Battle of Bint Jbail." One soldier was killed when his tank flipped over after driving over a massive explosive device. Another soldier was killed after his tank was hit by an enemy rocket. More than 50 Hizbullah operatives are also believed to have been killed during the fighting.
But despite the losses, officers who participated in the fighting described for The Jerusalem Post stories of bravery and valor - tales, they said, that would go down in Israeli military history.
One of those tales is of Lt.-Col. Guy Kabili, commander of Battalion 52 of the Tank Corps. Hearing reports of Golani infantrymen who were wounded in clashes with Hizbullah fighters in one of Bint Jbail's alleyways, Kabili ordered two of his tanks to follow him down the road to help evacuate the wounded.
Peppered by heavy gunfire and risking his own life, Kabili ran out of his tank and carried the wounded back in, together with his crew of soldiers. On the way back out of the alley, however, the tank drove over an explosive device and flipped over. St.-Sgt. Kobi Smileg was killed, and the six others in the tank were wounded, including Kabili who sustained serious wounds to one of his hands.
Another story involved a soldier from Egoz who sustained a serious gunshot wound to the jaw. Without thinking twice, officers said, his comrades threw him on a stretcher and carried him three kilometers out of the battle zone to safety.
Col. Amnon Eshel Assulin, commander of Armored Brigade 7, described the Hizbullah enemy as a "tough group of guerrilla fighters." But, he said, the determination of the troops would in the end prevail.