24 soldiers killed in s. Lebanon Saturday

Hizbullah shoots down IAF helicopter; its staff reported missing but presumed dead until their bodies are recovered.

idf tanks lebanon 298.88 (photo credit: IDF)
idf tanks lebanon 298.88
(photo credit: IDF)
Twenty-four IDF soldiers were killed on Saturday in the bloodiest day of clashes in southern Lebanon since the fighting began over a month ago. Five soldiers were killed Saturday night when Hizbullah guerrillas succeeded in shooting down the helicopter over southern Lebanon, the IDF revealed early Sunday morning. The helicopter, the IDF said, crashed into enemy territory. The families of soldiers who were on the helicopter were notified; however, the bodies of those killed had not yet been recovered. Hizbullah's al-Manar TV, said the helicopter was brought down by a new missile, the "Wa'ad" (Arabic for Promise) in the guerrilla arsenal. The IDF would not say what type of missile brought down the helicopter. This was the fourth helicopter to crash since Operation Change of Direction as launched in July 12. Two helicopters collided and crashed and a third crashed separately in northern Israel early on in the fighting. In other clashes with Hizbullah operatives throughout the day, 19 more soldiers were killed and 11 others were seriously wounded as IDF operations in Lebanon continued to expand, with armored, infantry and engineering forces extending deep into Lebanon to cover the entire region between the Israeli border and the Litani River before a cease-fire was declared. Three of the soldiers - an officer and two soldiers - were killed when an anti-tank missile hit their tank near the Wadi Sluki in the western sector village of Anduria. Another officer and three more soldiers were also killed by an anti-tank missile in the eastern sector village of Hirbat Kasis. Meanwhile, a Nahal soldier was killed by an anti-tank missile that hit the house in which he was stationed. Earlier, one soldier from Brigade 7 was killed after an anti-tank missile hit his tank in the village of Kantara in the eastern sector. Four more soldiers were killed and another from Brigade 401 were seriously wounded after their tank rolled over an explosive device in the village of Batiri. Another soldier was killed and five seriously wounded during clashes between a force from the Nahal Brigade's Battalion 931 and Hizbullah gunmen in the village of Randuyia in the western sector. In the same village two other soldiers were killed - one from the Nahal and the other from Armored Brigade 401 - during clashes with guerillas. In an unfortunate accident, two other soldiers were killed and one more was seriously wounded when a tank reversed into the soldiers from Battalion 51 of the Golani Brigade in the village of Hadta in the central sector. In the same village another Golani soldier, from Batallion 12, was killed during clashes with Hizbullah gunmen. Another soldier was seriously wounded after his D9 armored bulldozer drove over a large explosive device in the village of Atiri in the central sector. An officer from Brigade 401 was also seriously wounded and three were lightly wounded after an anti-tank missile hit their tank in the village of Dir Sirin in the western sector. Throughout the day, the IAF struck over 100 targets in southern Lebanon, including rocket launch sites, Hizbullah offices and bridges. Commandos were engaged in fierce battles with Hizbullah guerrillas in an area southwest of Marjayoun Saturday, Lebanese security officials said. The commando unit landed at dawn in Randuyia in a valley between the towns of Nabatiyeh, Tyre and Taibeh, the officials said. Heavy clashes raged there all morning, they said. It was unclear whether the commandos landed by helicopter or traveled by land from areas farther east. Randuyia is about 12 kilometers from the Israeli border. The area overlooks the Litani River, and is strategic ground that separates the eastern sector from the central sector of south Lebanon. Lebanon's National News Agency said fierce clashes were under way between guerrillas and IDF commandos on the edge of Randuyia, while the village and surrounding areas were being pounded by IAF missile strikes. Randuyia is about 15 kilometers west of the Christian town of Marjayoun, which Israeli troops took on Thursday.