15 Israeli Soldiers Killed in South Lebanon

15 Israeli Soldiers Killed in South Lebanon
15 Israeli Soldiers Killed in South Lebanon

The Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah on Wednesday launched a missile attack on an Israeli military convoy in the occupied Shebaa Farms in south Lebanon, killing at least 15 soldiers, with tens of others injured during the attack, the Lebanese Al Mayadeen TV network reported.

"At 11:25 am, the Quneitra martyrs of the Islamic Resistance targeted an Israeli military convoy in the Shebaa Farms composed of several vehicles which was transporting several Zionist soldiers and officers," Hezbollah said in a statement broadcast on the group's Al-Manar television channel. "There were several casualties in the enemy's ranks," it said.

Hezbollah targeted nine Israeli military vehicles, and killed “a large number” of troops, Al-Manar said. Israel’s Channel 10 network reported that a military hummer came under attack by an anti-tank missile.

Israel responded by firing shells across the border into southern Lebanon, the official National News Agency of Lebanon said.

A United Nations spokesman said a member of the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon was also killed during clashes.

However, reports on number of casualties from the Israelis were conflicting. Israeli military confirmed four soldiers were killed, while Israeli media reported four wounded.

The incidents came hours after Israeli air force jets struck Syrian army artillery positions near the Israel-occupied Golan Heights on Wednesday in retaliation for rockets launched in the area the previous day.

Tensions have been escalating for days. The exchange came 10 days after an Israeli airstrike on a Hezbollah convoy near Golan Heights that killed Hezbollah commander and the son of the group’s late military leader, Imad Moughniyeh, along with Iranian Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi.

Since the January 18 airstrike, troops and civilians in northern Israel and Golan have been on heightened alert and Israel has deployed Iron Dome rocket interceptors near the Syrian border.

Israel captured the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. The area has been hit by mortar shells and rockets numerous times in four years of civil war in Syria.

  Israel Gov’t Criticized

An Israeli rights group Wednesday criticized the government for what it called a “deliberate policy” of launching air strikes on homes that killed hundreds of civilians during last year’s Gaza war.

In a report examining 70 raids on residential buildings in the besieged Palestinian territory, B’Tselem said Israeli officials were responsible for civilian casualties during the 50-day conflict that killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians.

“A hallmark of the fighting in Gaza this summer was the numerous strikes on residential buildings, destroying them while their occupants were still inside,” the 49-page report said.

“This aspect of the fighting was particularly appalling” and was “the result of a policy formulated by government officials and the senior military command.”

In the cases B’Tselem investigated, 606 people were killed, 70 percent of whom were under 18 or over 60. The UN says the conflict’s Palestinian death toll was almost 70 percent civilian.

B’Tselem said Tuesday that it had not yet received a response from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office regarding the report. The group questioned Israel’s claims that it went out of its way during the conflict to respect international humanitarian law.

“You cannot say that the army didn’t know or couldn’t know how many civilians would get killed during those attacks,” B’Tselem’s head of research Yael Stein said.

“You can’t maybe (know) on the first day or the second day. But on the 10th day or the 20th day, when you see how many civilians are getting killed... these attacks shouldn’t have happened,” she said.

B’Tselem demanded explanations for possible Israeli violations of international law -- specifically in deciding whether a home constituted a legitimate military target, and whether its destruction gave a distinct military advantage outweighing collateral damage.

“They take international law and stretch it as far as they can, way beyond the acceptable interpretation by international lawyers,” Stein said. She stressed that Netanyahu’s insistence that Hamas was to blame for all civilian deaths in Gaza was an attempt to place “no restrictions whatsoever on Israeli action... no matter how horrifying the consequences,” it said.

“This policy is unlawful through and through.”