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After several hours of intense fighting in and around the hospital in the eastern Lebanon town of Baalbek, which was built by Iran for the express purpose of treating Hizbullah operatives, IDF commando forces on Wednesday morning took a number of Hizbullah operatives captive.
An IAF helicopter dropped commando forces a short distance from the hospital late Tuesday night. The force was discovered as it moved towards the structure, where Hizbullah operatives were suspected of hiding. Several hours of gunfights ensued, and at least 10 Hizbullah guerrillas were reported killed.
Another force was helicoptered in to extricate the commandos and provide backup for the mission.
After inspecting the identification of everyone in the hospital, the IDF soldiers proceeded to arrest several Hizbullah officials, who were later transported back into Israel. The officials' names and positions in the organization were not revealed.
The main target of the operation was allegedly Muhammad Yazbek, a senior figure in the organization; however, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said in a briefing on Wednesday
that IDF forces "weren't there to obtain something specific." Yazbek was not in the hospital at the time of the raid.
No IDF soldiers were wounded in the operation, an army spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post
Earlier Wednesday morning, Hizbullah spokesman Hussein Rahal said, "A group of Israeli commandos was brought to the hospital by a helicopter. They entered the hospital and are trapped inside as our fighters opened fire on them and fierce fighting is still raging."
Hizbullah denied those captured belonged to the guerrilla group.
"Those who were taken prisoner are citizens. It will not be long before the (Israeli) enemy will discover that they are ordinary citizens," Hizbullah said in a statement broadcast on its Al-Manar television.
In a statement released Wednesday, the IDF confirmed that Hizbullah operatives had been captured and that others had been killed. This is the first confirmation by the IDF of operations so deep inside the Bekaa Valley, a known Hizbullah stronghold.
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