Israel returns 3 Hizbullah bodies

Sources in Israel expressed hope that the exchanges would help calm the area.

hizbullah bodies298 88ap (photo credit: AP)
hizbullah bodies298 88ap
(photo credit: AP)
The bodies of the three Hizbullah gunmen killed by an IDF paratrooper in Ghajar on Monday were returned to Lebanon on Friday morning in the wake of a government decision made Thursday night. The transfer was made at the border crossing of Rosh Hanikra, when senior OC Northern Command officers, including regional brigade commander Col. Chen Livni, handed the bodies of the terrorists to the International Red Cross. "Israel sees the Lebanese government as the responsible party for prevention of terror from Lebanese terrority," Livni said. Families of the dead were waiting in Naqura on the Lebanese side of the border to receive the bodies for burial. Sources in Israel expressed the hope that the exchanges would help to calm the area. According to reports, the Lebanese government claimed that such a step would be instrumental in ensuring that calm prevailed along Israel's northern border. On Wednesday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz confirmed that a request had been received from the Lebanese government via the International Red Cross. The three gunmen were part of a large contingent - 20 guerillas altogether - of Hizbullah terrorists who entered the Israeli side of Ghajar in order to abduct soldiers on Monday afternoon. They were armed with rocket-propelled grenades, rifles and other weapons. Paratrooper marksman Crpl. David Markovitch shot and killed four members of the group after he, along with other soldiers, spotted the terrorists advancing. Three terrorists were struck by gunfire, causing the rocket-propelled grenades they carried to blow up and kill them. Monday's attack was the largest carried out by Hizbullah since the IDF withdrew from Lebanon in May 2000. Heavy barrages of rockets and mortar shells were also directed at IDF posts near Mt. Dov, and later expanded throughout the entire sector, hitting civilian communities. Twelve soldiers and civilians were wounded in the onslaught, and at least four Hizbullah gunmen were killed. The Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star reported that since Monday's attack, Hizbullah has beefed up its presence on the Lebanese side of Ghajar. An unidentified Hizbullah fighter interviewed by the newspaper declared that resistance fighters were on high alert, "ready to respond to any infiltration across the border." The fighter added that the Hizbullah demanded that Israel return the bodies of "our martyrs," and noted that the fourth gunman killed in Monday's attack had already been buried.