St.-Sgt. Alex Assaf, 21, from Karmiel, was killed and three others were injured on Wednesday when a company of soldiers of the Givati Brigade accidentally walked into a minefield in southern Lebanon near Mount Dov, also known as the Shaba Farms. A platoon commander was listed in serious condition, the battalion commander Lt.-Col. Bassam sustained moderate wounds and another soldier was lightly wounded.
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Assaf will be buried at 6:00 p.m. Thursday evening in the military section of the Karmiel cemetery.
The army had planted the minefield just across Israel's northern border years ago to prevent terrorists from infiltrating, and military officials said it was possible that the mines shifted in the ground due to changes in weather and terrain. Another possibility is that the company made navigational mistakes during its routine return from Lebanon to Israel and accidentally ended up inside the minefield.
An initial investigation of the incident revealed that the Givati force had entered the minefield at close to 5 a.m. Wednesday morning. One soldier was killed and an Engineering Corps force arrived quickly to begin the evacuation. After that force had cleared a path into the field, Bassam and the company commander arrived and began entering the minefield. But then, another mine exploded, seriously wounding the company commander and moderately wounding Bassam.
The dead soldier was the second IDF fatality since the UN-brokered cease-fire went into effect on August 14. On Friday night, Lt.-Col. Emanuel Moreno, 35, of the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal) was killed during clashes with Hizbullah guerrillas during an Israeli commando raid in the heart of Lebanon. Another incident occurred on Monday, when an IDF soldier was seriously injured after he accidentally fell and hit his head in the village of Taibeh in the eastern sector of southern Lebanon.
The IDF is currently holding positions it has taken up outside villages in southern Lebanon in preparation for the transfer of the territory to the new multinational force that has begun its gradual deployment. The soldiers are under orders not to enter villages and to keep a distance from civilians as well as Hizbullah gunmen. They are only permitted to open fire at guerrillas if they feel their lives are in immediate danger.